Six years after discovering the Higgs boson particle, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, have witnessed it decaying into bottom quarks for the first time, demonstrating what is thought to be the most common way for Higgs bosons to decay. As the previously theoretical particle which confirms science’s best model of the universe, the announcement represents a significant milestone in our understanding of the Standard Model of particle physics.
News concerning the decay of the Higgs boson to bottom quarks was revealed by ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) and CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) researchers at CERN, where the Large Hadron Collider is located. It represented the culmination of years of research, which confirm the prediction made by scientists.
Higgs bosons are created in just one out of every billion Large Hadron Collider collisions. They live for only the tiniest fraction of a second before their energy is converted into other particles. The results of this latest experiment was, in part, the result of artificial intelligence techniques — with deep learning neural networks used to help analyze the data produced.
“The observation of Higgs to bottom quark decays is an important milestone in our efforts to use the Higgs as a tool for discovery,” Paul Padley, a particle physicist at Rice University in Houston, who was involved with the research, told Digital Trends. “While the observation is consistent, within measurement error, with the Standard Model expectations there is plenty of room in the results for new physics to be taking place.”
The landmark event is significant due to the fact that it opens up ways for scientists to examine the behavior of the Higgs boson. For example, it could be used to explore whether it can interact with new undiscovered particles. However, Radley was keen to point out that this represents the beginning of a new phase of research, and certainly not the end.
“This observation is a leaping off point to explore the properties of the Higgs boson in detail in the hopes of throwing some light on the many mysteries that persist in our understanding of the universe,” Padley continued. “For example, some theories that have been created to explain dark matter also predict that the details of how the Higgs decays to bottom quarks will be slightly different to the Standard Model predictions. This is just an early, but important, step in a long journey of exploration.”