Weekend Feature: CERN LHC Update –Could the Higgs boson explain the size of the Universe?

A successful effort to identify the Higgs boson would not only be one of the great discoveries of the 21st Century by helping explain why the majority of elementary particles possess mass, as well as the evolution of the Universe from the moment of its birth, according to a group of Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) physicists. If their theory is verified with data from the Planck satellite, it would clear up several questions about the Universe, past and future.

The inflationary phase of the Universe after the Big Bang, an initial phenomenal expansion in which the Universe grew by a factor of 10^26 in a very short time has presented physicists with a hard time accounting for this rapid growth.

The Higgs boson can explain the speed and magnitude of the expansion, says Mikhail Shaposhnikov and his team from EPFL’s Laboratory of Particle Physics and Cosmology. In this infant Universe, the Higgs, in a condensate phase, would have behaved in a very special way – and in so doing changed the laws of physics. The force of gravity would have been reduced. Using this "X Factor," physicists can explain how the Universe expanded at such an incredible rate. But is that what really happened?

“We have determined that when the Higgs condensate disappeared to make way for the particles that exist today, the equations permitted the existence of a new, massless particle, the dilaton,” explains EPFL physicist Daniel Zenhäusern.

To arrive at this perhaps too convenient conclusion, the physicists applied a mathematical principle known as scale invariance – starting with the Higgs boson, they were able to determine the existence of the dilaton, a close cousin, as well as its properties.

It turns out that this new and as yet purely theoretical particle happens to have the exact characteristics to explain the existence of dark energy. This energy explains why the expansion of the current Universe is once again accelerating, but its origins are not understood. This theoretical advance – a completely unexpected result – is reassuring the scientists that they may be on the right track.

Astrophysicists are measuring the state of the Universe today using data from the Planck satellite. They are observing the light echo from the Big Bang, which reveals the large scale properties of the cosmos. In 2013, the measurement campaign will provide results that will be precise enough to compare with the EPFL scientsits’ theoretical predictions – and they’ll be able to see if their Higgs theory holds up. The boson isn’t just hidden in the bowels of CERN’s accelerator.

The Daily Galaxy via EPFL and  http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.2163


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