Science & Technology
December Thu 15, 2011
"Every advance in fundamental knowledge is a step forward for humanity toward progress and a better life", said Dr Fabiola Gianotti, a leading Italian scientist in the world. She is the coordinator of what has been called "the greatest experiment in the world " and she explains the essence of decades of research on the elusive "God particle". She does not like this nickname given to the Higgs boson very much ("I would not raise a particle to such a level," she says, smiling), but what is certain is the lively enthusiasm that shines through her words and that animates her when she speaks of the work she does as coordinator of the Atlas project at CERN in Geneva. Gianotti announced a very important step in the hunt, which has lasted for almost two decades, for the world's most famous particle, which according to the theories of Scottish scientist Higgs would have allowed other particles to gain mass a few billionths of a second after the Big Bang, thus leading to life in the universe as we know it. The day after this announcement, Fabiola Gianotti was contacted by ilSussidiario.net.You have not announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, but a milestone on the road to finally getting close to it. Is that correct? I cannot say if we are actually close. We are close to solving the mystery, but not because we are close to discovering the particle, since it may not even exist. The great result announced yesterday is that we have narrowed the window in which this particle - if it exists – would be located, namely the window of the mass of the particle. It is a very small region, so that we do not have to search around in a large area, but we can focus on a very small window. This is the first major result on the path to solving the mystery of whether or not this particle exists by the second half of 2012.Thus, you have now, if we may say so, signs of life of the particle, but not the particle itself.We have quite interesting indications that there might be this window of mass, but the indications are still too tenuous to conclude anything.You used the word mystery with respect to this particle. In fact, since Higgs developed his theory about its existence more than forty years ago, it has remained a mystery indeed, an unknown. What would change in our perception of reality if its existence were to be proven?The Higgs boson is a very important missing piece in our understanding of fundamental physics and, therefore, finding it is certainly very important and interesting. From the point of view of practical applications, something that many times people wonder, there are two remarkable aspects. First of all, to find this particle, whether we find it or not, we had to build this accelerator, do these experiments that are jewels of technology, and we had to develop new technology in many fields, from electronics to the processing of data through detectors. We also had to build measuring instruments which are now also used in other fields such as medicine. Thus, the effort over the past twenty years to build these tools has applications for the benefit of society.
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