As I said yesterday, there are rumours that the Higgs particle may have already been spotted at the Tevatron thus rendering LHC at CERN a tad redundant, but what is the Higgs anyway?
Basically the Higgs particle is the last particle predicted by the Standard Model. The Standard Model being the particle physics theory that describes the interactions between all of the particles that make up matter (it doesn’t describe gravitational interaction, but does describe Electromagnetism, the Weak force and the Strong force).
The Standard Model is both wildly successful and rather boring; it explains with great accuracy the result of every particle physics experiment in the last fifty years, yet if true it predicts we are not going to discover very much else. We know the Standard Model is incomplete specifically because it does not include a description of gravity, however it does predict that while not complete, it is ‘good enough’ until you reach close to the Planck energy – around two billion joules per particle (an insane amount of energy).
Interestingness in particle physics scales with energy, typically the more interesting discoveries happen at higher and higher energies; energy scales with accelerator size – using current technology you’d need to build a particle accelerator of galactic proportions to reach the Planck energy.
If however the Higgs particle isn’t discovered at the Tevatron or CERN, then things get interesting. It would show that there must be physics beyond that explained by the Standard Model and for good reasons, this interesting physics must occur at energies closer to current day experiments than the Standard Model would have you think. Hopefully this would point the way towards a better description of the way the universe is constructed.
Not discovering the Higgs could well be one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century.