Support Provided ByLearn More
Physics + Math

Higgs Boson Could Predict Superpartner Particles, but Only If BICEP2 Holds Up


Recieve emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

What happens when you incorporate the Higgs boson into models of the early universe? You may not get any universe at all.

The discovery of the Higgs boson two years ago promised to upend our understanding of the universe, and it appears to be doing just that. When physicists from King’s College in London

Support Provided ByLearn More
plugged the particle’s parameters into a model of the early inflationary universe, they found that the universe blasted into existence, but only for a second. After that, it was gone.

A view of the universe in infrared, as seen by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)

And yet, we’re still here, suggesting that we’re missing something in our models.

Tia Ghose, reporting for LiveScience:

“The generic expectation is that there must be some new physics that we haven’t put in our theories yet, because we haven’t been able to discover them,” [said co-author Robert Hogan].

One leading possibility, known as the theory of supersymmetry , proposes that there are superpartner particles for all the currently known particles, and perhaps more-powerful particle accelerators could find these particles, Hogan said.

Hogan’s model assumes the results from the BICEP2 experiment hold up, which isn’t a given. In March, physicists working on that project announced that they had seen evidence of gravitational waves, which were predicted by the theory behind inflation. But since then, other physicists have cast doubt on the results, saying that galactic dust tainted the data. Just last week, the BICEP2 team acknowledged the problem , stating that dust could be confounding their results.

Should the BICEP2 results hold up, Hogan and his colleagues results may suggest the existence of new particles. But as we’ve seen in the last few months, probing the early universe isn’t a straightforward task.

Relive the discovery of the Higgs boson.