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STEM Café to explain mysterious Higgs boson

November 18, 2013
Dhiman Chakraborty

Dhiman Chakraborty

Famously dubbed the “God particle,” the Higgs boson took thousands of scientists nearly five decades to discover, at a cost that one journalist estimated at $13.25 billion.

Over the past 18 months, there has been plenty of hype about “the Higgs,” beginning with the boson’s discovery in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Just last month, the Nobel Prize in physics went to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, two of the scientists who developed theories in the 1960s that predicted the elementary particle.

As part of its STEM Café series, NIU STEM Outreach invites the public to a discussion on the importance of the Higgs discovery.

The free event will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, at Claddagh Irish Pub, in the Geneva Commons. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

Northern Illinois University physics professor Dhiman Chakraborty will provide a layman’s perspective on the profound nature of the theory predicting the Higgs and talk about how scientists confirmed the theory experimentally. He leads a group of NIU scientists and students who are members of the ATLAS collaboration at CERN, one of the two experiments that jointly discovered the Higgs boson last year.

“This discussion is geared for the general public,” said Chakraborty, who received NIU’s top honor for research, the Presidential Research Professorship, in 2011.

Over the past two decades, he has helped shed light on the building blocks of our universe, making contributions to scientific understanding of the subatomic world, the discovery of the top quark at Fermilab and the pursuit of the Higgs.

Nobel Laureate Peter Higgs visits the ATLAS detector at CERN. (Photo courtesy of CERN)

Nobel Laureate Peter Higgs visits the ATLAS detector at CERN.
(Photo courtesy of CERN)

For decades, the Higgs boson was the holy grail of particle physics. Its detection confirms the existence of the Higgs field, which permeates the universe and gives particles mass. Without the Higgs boson and field, nothing would exist – no animals, oceans, planets or stars.

“My talk will include a discussion about where scientists will go from here experimentally and what benefits these efforts bring to our everyday lives,” Chakraborty said.

“Although producing material benefits is not the primary objective of basic research, I believe the audience will be surprised to learn how particle physics benefits society in a variety of ways,” he added. “They will also be surprised by how much work this research requires and how rigorous and precise we have to be to make these discoveries.”

Geared for the general public, NIU’s monthly STEM Cafés present cutting-edge research in science, technology, engineering and math, followed by question-and-answer sessions led by NIU’s STEM experts.

For more information, contact Judith Dymond at (815) 753-4751 or [email protected].