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Head of CERN labs: “A Higgs sells better than no Higgs”

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In “Progress Isn’t A Linear Development” (The European , 06.08.12), Rolf-Dieter Heuer, head of the CERN laboratories, discusses the significance of the Higgs boson find:

The European: How will the discovery of the Higgs change the course of physics over the coming years and decades?

Heuer: The “standard model” chapter is now done within the energy range (or reach) that is accessible to us. It is now internally coherent. But that only encompasses the visible universe: 95 percent remains unknown to us. The next task is to measure the properties of the particle very precisely. Maybe we’ll encounter deviations from the theoretical predictions of the standard model that might indicate where we have to look next. Maybe we’ll learn more about supersymmetry, dark matter or even dark energy. If nature means well, the Higgs boson will open many doors towards future discoveries.

The European: A hypothetical question: What would have been more important, the discovery of the Higgs or the confirmation that the particle did not exist?

Heuer: The fact that we have found it is extremely gratifying. We have confirmed a 45 year old formalism. That’s gigantic. If we had been able to rule out its existence, that would have been very important as well because we would have been able to say: “Something is missing in the standard model.” But it is always easier for a scientist to positively confirm something than to rule something out. When you confirm the existence of a particle, you have very concrete starting points for future research. If I were a salesman, I would tell you: a Higgs sells better than no Higgs.

See also: Larry Krauss thinks the Higgs boson is more relevant than God

That is, of course, if it is a Higgs. One experiment pegged it at 125GeV the other at 127GeV, and the algorithms that searched for it in the terabytes of data, were finding more "double-photon" decays than expected. The story isn't closed yet, despite the manager's sigh of relief that he has finally delivered the much-anticipated $10billion snark. Robert Sheldon

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