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Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 11:04 pm
Wednesday may prove to be a very exciting day in physics: the two LHC teams searching for the Higgs boson are scheduled to give a seminar, and pretty much the entire particle physics community expects their announcement to amount to a discovery (though either experiment on its own may or may not pass the official threshold this time). This is a Big Deal: finding the Higgs was one of the primary goals of the LHC (perhaps the primary goal), and it's the very last piece of the Standard Model of particle physics whose existence has not yet been confirmed. These groups presented some very tantalizing evidence last December, but now that they've taken more data we may finally be there for real.

The really interesting thing to watch for in this announcement is whether the particle they're seeing seems to behave exactly as the Standard Model predicts, or whether its interactions are different in some subtle way. Most of us really, really hope that there are differences, because the behavior of the Higgs is sensitive to many types of "new physics": it could give us the first fundamentally new experimental evidence about the ultimate laws of nature that we've had in a decade (or maybe even three decades or more, depending on what you count as "new" and how narrowly you focus on particle physics). Nobody expects tomorrow's announcement to make solid claims about any of that: it will take years of data to really start to understand the details. But December's data seemed to have weak hints of something unexpected, so people will be watching carefully to see whether those hints get stronger or whether they fade away as the statistics improve.

I'll presumably post something all excited in the morning. But if you're interested, keep an eye on Cosmic Variance or your favorite particle physics blog for news. The seminar is at 9am in Geneva, so that's 3am Eastern. I expect to be envious of everyone on the west coast who gets to see the results live at midnight!