New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

Courant’s Marateck Describes Math Theory Behind Higgs Boson Finding

January 3, 2013

Lost in the exhilaration surrounding this summer’s presumed discovery of the Higgs boson, the subatomic particle that is a building block of the universe, were the theoretical clues that led to the breakthrough.

In an article that appeared this summer in the Notices of the American Mathematical Society, Samuel Marateck, a senior lecturer at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, unpacks scholarship dating back to the era following World War I that provided the scientific foundation for the search.

For some time, physicists have been searching for the Higgs boson, the only particle of the Standard Model of Particle Physics that scientists had yet to detect. The Standard Model of Particle Physics describes the universe in terms of its fundamental particles and the forces between them.

The hunt was primarily conducted in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. But mathematical physicists had, decades ago, laid a theoretical groundwork that ultimately gave physicists clues of where and how to look.

The initial, formal underpinning, Marateck writes, was the Yang-Mills theory, formulated in 1954. Chen Ning Yang and Robert Mills invented what was then a new type of particle field strength based on the electro-magnetic one—a contribution that would allow physicists to obtain a calculable result in future analyses.

However, the Yang-Mills theory had a significant shortcoming. The particles it hypothesized had to have zero mass—that is, they must be weightless. These hypothesized particles belong to the particle family called bosons, and the only zero-mass bosons are photons. Given the theory’s limitations, it lay dormant for a decade, Marateck explains, until others found a way to give these bosons mass.

Three different research teams working independently in the 1960s updated Yang-Mills by devising a theory that not only imparted mass to bosons, but also hypothesized a new particle. This particle became known as the Higgs boson, named after Peter Higgs, one of these researchers. The addition by Higgs and others offered a way to explain why atoms have weight.

The apparent discovery of the Higgs boson should now provide fundamental insights into why particles have mass. It has been dubbed the “God particle” because it is associated with an energy field that gives other particles their mass, or resistance

 

Type: Article

Courant’s Marateck Describes Math Theory Behind Higgs Boson Finding

Search News



NYU In the News

Entrepreneurship Lab Opens at NYU

Crain’s New York Business covered the opening of the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurial eLab, which will be the headquarters for NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and all of the University’s programs aimed at promoting innovation and startups.

A Globalizer for N.Y.U. in Abu Dhabi

The New York Times profiled Bill Bragin who will become the first executive artistic director of NYU Abu Dhabi’s new performing arts center.

Think Tank to Ponder a Future for Ballet

The New York Times profiled Jennifer Homans, the director of NYU’s new Center for Ballet and the Arts.

The Brilliant Ten: Jonathan Viventi Builds Devices That Decode Thoughts

Popular Science named Assistant Bioengineering Professor Jonathan Viventi as one of its “brilliant ten” for his research into brain implants that could one day halt epileptic episodes:

Living and Leaving the Dream: Adrian Cardenas’ Journey from the Major Leagues to College

The New York Times ran a feature on Adrian Cardenas, a former major league baseball player who is now studying philosophy and creating writing at NYU.

NYU Footer