The Illusive "Higgs"


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Once upon a time the universe was a simple place. It contained but a few types of particles influenced, it is thought, by a single force. Very hot and highly energetic, this unsophisticated universe could exist for only a very short period of time - a mere few seconds after the Big Bang. Subsequently, energy dispersed throughout the expanding space and the universe cooled down, becoming increasingly complex.

In today's universe, there are many types of particles, influenced by four forces: gravity, color, the weak nuclear force, and the electromagnetic force. Physicists are trying to prove that "in the beginning" only a single primal force operated, which later developed and split into the four forces known today.

Prof. Eilam Gross with Yaara (10) and Nuphar (15)

In fact, physicists have already succeeded in unifying the electromagnetic force with the weak nuclear force, and hav called e shown that both are just a facet of a more ancient force: the electro-weak force. However, this achievement rests on the existence of a force-carrying particle called "Higgs," whose existence has yet to be empirically proven. Thousands of scientists worldwide are taking part in an intense search for this elusive particle (which is also believed to account for a large percentage of the mass in the universe). Prof. Eilam Gross of the Weizmann Institute's Particle Physics Department is participating in this international effort.

Attempts to prove the existence of the "Higgs" particle are taking place primarily in the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, where a new accelerator presently under construction is expected to become operative in a few years. The success of this effort depends mainly upon the mass of the "Higgs" particle. Gross is a major contributor to the experiments aiming to determine its mass.

Prof. Eilam Gross's work is supported by the Minerva Stiftung Gesellschaft fur die Forschung m.b.H.

"My father, the engineer Joshua Gross, dedicated his free time to theoretical mathematics and was even nicknamed "Mati" by his friends. I was only 12 when he passed away, but I clearly remember him telling my mother that he was sure I would grow up to be a professor. In this respect, I feel that I'm fulfilling his most heartfelt wish."