It’s been almost two weeks since a team of scientists in Geneva revealed that they had made probably the most important discovery of the 21st century. It’s safe to say that it was the closest a scientific conference has ever come to resembling a rock concert, and rightly so!
For those who aren’t up to speed, the Higgs Boson is the elementary particle that is responsible for giving all matter mass. Without it, there would be no “we” as “we’d” pretty much be a bunch of particles zooming around at the speed of light. The discovery of the Higgs ensures that we don’t have to go back to the drawing board as to our cosmic origins as it proves the authority of the Standard Model of particle physics and validates almost half a century of research.
Here in Boston, people go about their daily lives only vaguely aware, if at all, of the scientific bottles of champagne being popped all over the world. Emma Rosenfeld, a rising junior here at BU, however is very much part of the celebration. “This is the start of a completely new era in Physics,” she gushes with all the enthusiasm of someone who’s just won the lottery.
Rosenfeld is a physics major who has been working at one of BU’s physics labs for almost two years now. Her lab’s Primary Investigator, Steven Ahlen, is one of the engineers who worked on one of the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC) two detectors that was responsible for the discovery, giving Rosenfeld a front seat to the proceedings. Ironically, it’s Facebook that takes the credit for breaking the news to her. “I didn’t believe it at first…it just seemed like too big a deal for me to find out on Facebook!”
Rosenfeld’s laboratory is in the midst of switching projects to work on an aspect of the LHC from here in Boston. The LHC will now be used primarily to study the new particle which could lead to myriad discoveries about the fabric of our universe including the nature of dark matter, an elusive matter that supposedly accounts for a large part of the total mass of the universe. To put it in perspective, without the discovery of electrons, there would be no electricity; the discovery of the Higgs Boson could lead to phenomena as yet beyond our comprehension.
According to Rosenfeld who cannot help but go into technical detail just beyond the understanding of a film major, this pivotal event has turned ours into a century of physics. “I’m so thankful to be able to see this in my lifetime and be at the center of it,” Rosenfeld exclaims. “This is a real morale boost for anyone studying physics.”