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2012 promises to be a truly historic year for science.
Just before Christmas, researchers working at CERN
near Geneva, announced that they had caught a tantalising glimpse
of the Higgs boson.
I'm Jim Al-Khalili and, as a physicist,
I must say that following the search
for this so-called "God particle" has been incredibly exciting.
Sometime this year, researchers hope to be able to declare
the Higgs finally, officially discovered.
If confirmed, it will be the most important scientific discovery
of my lifetime.
It'll be evidence for one of the most
all-encompassing ideas in physics.
That at the heart of everything
is the simple and enchanting idea
The search for the Higgs takes us deep into the most important
questions about how the universe works and how it was created.
Horizon has been following the final stages of the hunt
for this most important and elusive of particles.
This is CERN, headquarters
of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.
It's home to some of the thousands of scientists
who have been doggedly hunting
the elusive Higgs boson
and the £6 billion experiment that they're using to do it.
Especially built to find the one particle
that's thought to give substance to everything in the universe.
This is fantastic. Any one of those 40 million collisions
happening every second could be giving us a Higgs boson.
Could be that one right there.
In the autumn of 2011,
when Horizon was at CERN,
there was already a sense that this near 50-year quest
was reaching its final stages.
Yeah, I think this is the end. This is the end, one way or another.
We're definitely in the endgame now.
I think that this time next year,
it will be there or it won't be.
It's a search that's dominated the careers
of a generation of physicists.
Personally, I got a job saying I wanted to do this in 1993.
It's the 11th year now.
-About ten years, me.
-Yeah, and about 5 years for me.
That's over 20 years.
But while there are thousands of scientists in pursuit,
only for a few will there be prizes
and a place in history.
The Higgs is going to win a Nobel Prize,
so everybody wants to be a part of it. This is the goal
of every physicist. I mean, you won't spend 20 years
if you don't believe in something.
There's a lot of people who are interested in this, so...
So yeah, it tends to get exciting.
Not sleeping very much!
It's a big collaboration. "What did you do?"
Everyone wants an answer to that.
INTERVIEWER: And are you two competing or working together?
Together. If he finds it, I'll take the credit.
Amongst the intrepid Higgs hunters
are Jon Butterworth
and his colleague Adam Davison, from University College London.
They've been drawn here, like all the other scientists,
by the potential of the Large Hadron Collider
to find the missing boson at last.
It's a great opportunity for us to finally understand
whether the Higgs exists.
Physics won't be the same after this.
Even a null result here will re-write the text books.
This is it. This is where it's going to happen.
The problem with hunting for the Higgs
is it can't be detected in everyday conditions.
To find it, scientists need to return
to those at the very beginning.
Well, almost - to the conditions just after the big bang.
When, the theory goes, the Higgs and everything else
was first created.
So here we have the big bang.
Deserves a little bit of colour, I think.
And then the timeline of the universe.
This is where we are.
It's now, the age of the universe,
about 13.7 billion years
after the big bang.
So working backwards,
we know that a few hundred thousand years ago,
we had the dinosaurs.
So, here's a dinosaur.
Then life itself, the first DNA,
is about 4 billion years ago.
Before DNA, there was the Earth.
Before that, stars.
Before them, atoms.
And inside atoms,
you have the most fundamental building blocks of existence.
The big question is where did those building blocks come from?
The answer to all that lies in the first second.
In this one crucial second, all the elementary particles were created.
Including, scientists believe, the Higgs boson.
The mysteries of existence lie within this second.
Certainly, we understand the science, we understand the physics.
Backwards into this second,
but at some point we just run out of knowledge.
The Large Hadron Collider is allowing us to see
right back to 10 to the -12 seconds
after the big bang.
Beyond that, here be dragons. Or dinosaurs!
The Large Hadron Collider's technique to transport scientists
to the moment just after the big bang is as violent
as it is ambitious. 100 metres underground, it takes protons
from the nuclei of atoms
and collides them, at almost the speed of light.
These protons are colliding at huge energies,
and in those collisions
a large number of particles are produced, hundreds, thousands even.
And trying to look at those particles that are produced,
and understand what happened in those collisions,
is what the LHC is all about.
Somewhere buried in this wreckage, they hope to unearth the Higgs.
It would be proof of the existence of a field
that scientists believe surrounds us all the time.
And that appeared in that first second of creation.
As the heat and fury ebbed out of the big bang,
so the theory goes, the Higgs field condensed.
As particles travel through this field
they get slowed down, like travelling through treacle.
This is what gives them mass.
Without gaining mass, particles
would have continued to fly through the universe at the speed of light.
Never clumping together to form you, me, blackboards, well, anything.
To have deduced the presence of something as weird as the Higgs,
just from theory and from other previous data,
and then to find it in nature, would be a hugely exciting vindication
of our picture of what is going on.
Finding something that's all around us is surprisingly tricky.
Scientists need to create a disturbance in the Higgs field
to detect the boson itself.
This is what the LHC is attempting to do, by colliding particles.
It's a challenge other particle accelerators
have tried and been unable to complete.
Because for all scientists sense that the Higgs ought to be there,
it has proven spectacularly difficult to find.
The idea of the Higgs boson was first proposed in 1964.
Which was a very long time ago, before I was even born.
Many years of work have been leading up to this point,
so it is absolutely exciting to be here
at the point where the discovery might happen.
What's made all the difference at the LHC
are the incredible energy levels the collider can reach.
Pushing further back in time into that crucial first second.
This has opened up new places to search for the Higgs,
a hunt that's defined in terms
of what mass the Higgs itself might have,
measured in GeV, or giga electron volts.
So on this line of what the mass of the Higgs might be,
we can draw on what previous experiments have tried,
and where they have been able to exclude it from being.
After decades of work, the LEP collider at CERN,
a predecessor of the LHC,
ruled out the Higgs being at the bottom end of potential masses.
In fact, they were able to say that the mass of the Higgs is,
with 95% confidence, 114 GeV, or more.
So after LEP, the next major milestone in the Higgs search
was limits set by another collider in the US called the Tevatron.
The Tevatron was able to exclude a range here,
around 160 GeV here.
And by November 2011, the LHC had already radically narrowed the search.
The LHC has been able to rule out a big region
..quite far up.
It's been decades' worth of work
to gradually eliminate more and more of the space where the Higgs boson could be,
and now we are finally in this regime
where in the next couple of years
we might be able to close this gap
and finally know for sure whether it is there or not.
In November, that left a region of just 30 GeV
for the Higgs to be hiding in.
But this last remaining energy range is also the trickiest to search.
It is the area in which the unique signature of the Higgs
is most deeply buried
under the background noise of other particles created in the collider.
Not that the Higgs hunters were deterred.
The data is piling up and we know how to do it,
we just don't have enough data to tell you today what the answer is.
If I was to bet, I would probably put it at 130 GeV.
At the moment, probably somewhere around 120 GeV.
I would predict somewhere between 120 and 130 GeV.
I would put the Higgs somewhere close to 114 GeV,
because it is the most difficult place to look,
and we haven't found it yet.
That is a good question, because, you know,
you are assuming it actually exists,
which I am starting to believe it probably does not exist.
I'm really oscillating between thinking it is clearly there,
and then thinking, no, it's not going to turn up, is it?
Yeah, I don't know,
I think I have decided not to have a strong opinion.
I keep trying not to.
In almost every way, I think it would be more exciting
to prove it doesn't exist.
Yeah, it would be a longer-term bigger result, I think,
the negative result would have a longer-term bigger impact,
because it would really put us back to the drawing board.
On the other hand, in the short-term, it'd be disappointing
because a positive result is positive.
-You'd like to see that.
-I don't think that's true at all.
I think a negative result, even in the short-term, would be more exciting.
It's the opposite of what people expect, right?
It's like... It'd be a lot more fun.
The experimental physicists here at CERN
have already put some of the ideas of their colleagues,
the theorists, to the test, and not all the results have been positive.
It's a whole bunch of theoretical models and papers.
There's been a bonfire of them since the LHC started.
There are whole swathes of potential speculation
that are now pointless. They're obviously a dead end
because the data says this.
But what's at stake with the Higgs isn't just one particle,
however elusive, or any old theory.
The Higgs is the cornerstone for the most successful and all-encompassing
description of how our universe works that there is.
Working this beautiful model out
has been one of the great achievements of theoretical physics,
and Frank Wilczek was one of the key contributors.
-Hi. Welcome. Come in.
-Yeah, that'd be great, thank you.
I'll show you our library, living room, trophy room.
A lot of puzzle books, most of which I've worked through.
I'm a big puzzle man.
Here are the awards and trophies that have found their way here.
-This is the Nobel Prize medal and here's one for you.
Are these ones edible?
Yes, more or less. Anyway, I intend to eat one.
..you'll notice that...
..not only in this room but everywhere, there are little toys.
A lot of what I do is really just play.
I mean, I play with the equations, ideas.
And all that puzzling won Frank a Nobel prize
for his contribution to what's called
the Standard Model Of Elementary Particles.
Well, what have we got here?
It looks like an instrument of torture for the mind.
The Standard Model is essentially an understanding of how all the pieces
of the universe fit together, except for gravity.
A mind-boggling project.
This is going to be a hell of a puzzle to figure out.
All right. Now, a promising start. HE LAUGHS
'We think the Standard Model contains all you need,
'in principle, to describe how molecules behave,
'all of chemistry, how stars work, all of astrophysics.
'Not only how things behave, but what can exist.
'These are the rules of the game.'
The ingredients of the Standard Model are of three basic sorts.
There's what you might broadly call matter.
That's sort of lumps of stuff that have a certain degree of permanence
and these are on the one hand quarks.
They include the building blocks of protons and neutrons
and atomic nuclei.
The most prominent lepton in everyday life is certainly the electron.
So those are matter particles.
On the other side we have what you might call force particles,
or force mediators.
These particles are more like lumps of energy
and they transmit the forces that bring the matter particles to life,
like the photon, which carries the electromagnetic force.
The gluons that carry the strong force,
which holds the nuclei of atoms together,
and the W and Z bosons
that are responsible for the weak force governing radioactivity.
Every one of these particles has now been found experimentally.
There's just one pesky missing piece to the model
that they're searching for so intensively at CERN.
In order to reconcile the beautiful equations
with the not quite as beautiful observations,
we need to find out what that piece is
and its properties and see if it really fits into a nice pattern
and completes the Standard Model.
We need experimental information
and this is usually called the quest for the Higgs boson.
This is why finding the Higgs is such an obsession among physicists.
If they do, it will be the vindication of this beautiful model.
And if not, they'll have to fundamentally rethink
their understanding of how the universe is put together.
In a way, finding the Higgs will be the completion of a dream.
Not finding it will be the start of a new one.
Imagine that the Standard Model is the car and the Higgs is the engine
and it's running, and imagine you find a car and then you open
and see no engine, so it might be more interesting than the car with an engine.
If you find that the car is running without an engine,
it's more interesting but it's kind of...
"What did I do in the last 20 years?" You know?
Do I believe in the Higgs? I... I think so.
I believe there's something that we're missing
and hopefully it's the Higgs, because...
it fits our model very nicely.
There are other possibilities, so I wouldn't discount those completely
but I think this is the best explanation we have so far.
Ask me in a year's time and I might give you a different answer.
It's October 2011 in the Atlas Control Room,
the nerve centre of one of two detectors at CERN
intensively searching for the Higgs.
Scientists here are avidly collecting data
from the billions of collisions, to comb for evidence of the boson,
because you can't simply spot it directly.
Almost as soon as it's created, it decays into other particles,
leaving just a trace of its existence.
The only way scientists can tell if a Higgs boson was there or not
is by looking for a statistical anomaly,
some blip in the measurements that they can't otherwise account for.
Seeing one picture like that isn't sufficient,
because there are other things that can look like the Higgs.
But if you get a bunch of them and you plot them, that's what we do,
that's our job, we put together all these tracks
and we say, "What mass of a particle would produce that?"
And then we look at them all and if we see a bump,
some little statistical anomaly there that's significant,
then we get excited, and then we go ask the other guys, "Hey, did you guys see that?"
Then we celebrate, but right now we've got a lot of work to do.
In the autumn, that intensive effort was being directed at the 30GeV
energy window that the Higgs could be hiding in.
We've covered a lot of range, we're travelling up a river,
we've checked all the different streams and we've narrowed it down
to some areas where it could be, and so that's where we're focusing
all of our energy, to look in those areas and see if we find it.
I think we're really on the brink of discovery.
But it's a slow process,
because it's all about crunching vast quantities of data.
One blip alone isn't enough, of course.
You need to be sure it isn't an error or fluke
and these anomalies can disappear almost as quickly as they arrive.
For experimentalists, these false alarms happen all too frequently.
You work on it day in, day out, so you get quite emotionally attached
to the state of these plots and numbers.
Especially if it's your plot. You want it to be your plot that finds the Higgs.
I realised at some point actually that it is genuinely...
I realised I found it genuinely stressful when plots get worse.
Yeah, that's right.
-So many points can do that.
-When it get worse that makes me a little bit anxious and I think,
-"This is insane."
-and so you live in hope and then you often hit disappointment.
It was in this state of perpetual tension that the scientists
working on the Atlas Detector met in November to discuss their latest set of results.
-What's going on?
-They've just got started
and now we're going to get to the nitty-gritty of how things are actually going.
We don't have enough data, the statistics are fluctuating up and down.
You get excited about something and then more data,
it goes away and a bit more, it comes back.
It's all very tense at the moment, I'd say.
-Does it feel like there's a real atmosphere
in terms of the search for Higgs closing in?
It's really weird because you're working on this more or less 20 hours a day
and it's been going on for a long time, so it becomes almost routine,
and then you get a meeting like this where it all
comes together and people go, "This is really exciting again."
This isn't one of those moments where people remember why we're here.
-Can we come in?
In fact, the guy just said, "The BBC are outside.
"Be nice to them at the coffee break, tell them what they want to know."
The spokesperson was in there and said, "Don't tell them anything!"
The intense secrecy was because of the competition between the LHC's different detectors
to find the Higgs first and the provisional nature of the results.
What nobody was aware of at the time,
was that a small blip in the data that Atlas researchers had seen
would ultimately turn into something far more significant.
The hunt for the Higgs may be the most high-profile work going on at CERN
but the £6 billion experiment is about far more than finding one boson.
Scientists here are using the particle accelerator to understand
some of the other great mysteries of the universe.
But there's one common problem that links the Higgs
with other work happening here and that of scientists around the world.
Many scientists hope that if the Higgs is found
it'll help resolve the paradox within our understanding
of the laws of nature.
And it's a rather fundamental one.
Science has given us a set of laws
that describe the world so accurately
that we can predict the motion of a coin tossed in the air,
because we understand the law of gravity.
We understand electromagnetism so well that we can use our GPS satellites
to locate your car to within a few inches.
We understand the nuclear force so well that we can predict
the future evolution of the sun itself.
The mathematics that's given rise to many of these great successes
has one consistent theme.
It's one we see around us every day.
It characterises our faces, the natural world
and tiny structures like viruses and even our DNA.
In the Standard Model, symmetry rules.
The laws are dictated really in their form
by requiring tremendous amounts of symmetry.
That's how we found them.
But for all the power of symmetry in uncovering these fundamental laws,
there's a deep paradox at work.
If the laws of science are framed at their most perfect,
most symmetrical form,
then life cannot exist at all.
There'd be no mountains, rivers, valleys.
No DNA, no people, nothing.
A universe created along absolutely symmetric principles
would be in perfect balance, and would cancel itself out.
There'd be no mass, Higgs... or matter at all.
But here we are.
Our world is teeming with life and complexity,
and yet that seems to be incompatible with
perfection in our equations. By rights, we shouldn't be here.
This paradox about symmetry
lies at the heart of modern physics.
And it's crucial to understanding the significance
of the Higgs itself.
So what unites much of the work at CERN
is trying to resolve this problem with symmetry.
There's another group of scientists
who work alongside the Higgs hunters.
There are over 700 of them,
and they're searching for answers to this puzzle about symmetry.
So this canteen is very important, really.
It's one of the main working places at CERN.
You see a lot of big names down here -
if you wait long enough you'll come across a Nobel Prize winner
during the day.
Peter Clarke is one of the scientists working
on the Large Hadron Collider's LHCb experiment,
along with his colleague from the University of Edinburgh, Conor Fitzpatrick.
Their field of study
is the weird symmetric mirror world of antimatter.
A substance that's as real as matter, but its opposite...
..and rather more elusive.
The geek in everyone still feels a bit excited about the concept of working with this stuff.
It's not something the public sees from day to day life,
and it's one of the few things you can only see at CERN.
Antimatter may sound like the stuff of science fiction.
But since it was first proposed as a concept 80 years ago,
scientists have been creating it in experiments.
The very idea of antimatter emerged from a revolutionary
piece of mathematics, with symmetry at its heart.
It said that for every particle of matter,
there should be a corresponding one of antimatter.
Once one's thought about the symmetry of the theories,
and realised that antimatter must exist,
you then think it's absurd that there wouldn't be antimatter
or the possibility to create antimatter.
Which is why it's so surprising that the world in which we live is entirely made of matter.
Because the theory posed a puzzle:
when matter and anti-matter meet, they destroy each other completely.
Equal amounts of each would leave nothing but energy.
If the laws of science are expressed in their most perfect form,
then life cannot exist at all.
Clearly, all the matter WASN'T destroyed by antimatter.
After all, we see around us far more matter than antimatter
in the universe today.
Just how this could have happened is something that Peter, Conor
and the other scientists on the LHCb experiment are trying to understand.
So they're using the Large Hadron Collider to create some
pairs of matter and antimatter particles of their own,
to study what could have happened
in that crucial first second of the universe.
We're currently in the LHCb control room.
This is colloquially referred to as "the pit" -
100 metres below us right now is the LHCb experiment itself.
LHCb is one of the four detectors sited around the collider.
When the two beams of protons meet in a head-on collision,
recreating the energy levels just after the big bang,
it records the particles that are formed.
We can see antimatter being created in our detector,
so the difference between matter and antimatter is that they're differently charged.
So these two green tracks here,
in a magnetic field they're going differently, so one of them
has to be matter, and one of them has to be antimatter.
It's kind of cool that we can see it right here in an event on the screen.
Combing through the wreckage of billions of collisions,
and building on the work of previous particle accelerators,
scientists here have been in search of ways
in which matter and antimatter behave differently.
And they've managed to observe one -
a crucial breaking of symmetry
in the behaviour of matter and antimatter versions
of particles called B mesons.
So I'll give you one example of the way
we observe the difference between matter and antimatter.
This is perhaps the simplest example to visualise.
We can observe how B mesons created in LHCb decay to particles,
and how anti-B mesons decay to antiparticles.
We can count the rate at which this happens,
the number of times it happens, and we do this.
We observe the particles decaying 7,000 times,
and the antiparticles 6,000 times.
And if matter and antimatter did not have this asymmetry,
it would just be an equal number of times.
So this difference of 1,000 is an absolute clear manifestation
of the asymmetry between matter and antimatter.
So far, researchers haven't been able to find
enough instances of this asymmetry
to explain all the matter we know IS in the universe.
But one thing is clear. The reason we exist,
is because the perfect symmetry scientists believe was once there
between matter and antimatter must somehow have been broken.
And symmetry breaking is at the heart of scientists' understanding
of how the Higgs came to give mass to everything in the first place.
The theory goes that there was a moment after the big bang
when the Higgs field appeared.
And this split apart a perfect symmetry
between two of the fundamental forces of nature.
And the Higgs gave the particles of these forces different masses.
And at the same time, it gave mass to all the other particles.
The Higgs boson and the Higgs field is basically what does this symmetry breaking.
So the whole idea that our theories
revolve around symmetries and broken symmetries -
the Higgs is kind of the linchpin of that.
It's this unique prediction of this kind of idea,
and without it, we're back to the drawing board,
but with it, if we see it,
it's a stunning prediction of this idea of symmetry
and broken symmetry somehow lying behind the way the universe works.
The Higgs allows the symmetry in scientists' equations
to be broken in the real world.
Finding it would be a vindication
of their whole approach to understanding the universe.
That's why it's become
such a defining quest in modern physics.
Tuesday 13th December 2011
was a day with the potential to change physics history.
-'Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva
'are expected to announce later...'
'..are expected to present preliminary evidence today...'
'..will confirm whether the current theory of particle physics is correct.'
Since November, a lot more data had been crunched,
ahead of an important meeting.
It was the end of year report, where the experiments analysed
the data we collected during 2011, and reported on the Higgs search.
And I guess everyone knew that either the mass range
the Higgs could be in was going to shrink down,
possibly to nothing, or some kind of hint would pop up
that there was something there.
What was special about this meeting was that it would bring together
data from two independent detectors at CERN.
The data from Jon and Adam's Atlas detector,
and a second one - CMS.
But neither team knew in advance what the other had discovered,
and the atmosphere on both sides was electric.
-It was ridiculous...
Very, er... almost frenzy, I don't know.
There were people having their breakfast
in the lecture theatre at 9 o'clock,
to be sure they'd get a seat for the seminar at 2 o'clock.
The room holds about 600 people,
and it was full two hours before the talk started.
There were rumours on the internet,
and obviously people talk to each other,
so I think, yeah, this idea that something exciting
-was about to happen was building in the community, at least.
-All got a bit out of hand, really.
By late afternoon, it was clear that the hunt for the Higgs had closed in.
NEWS: 'Scientists hunting for the elusive Higgs boson
'say they've discovered strong signals that it exists.'
'Scientists say they've uncovered signs of the elusive Higgs boson,
'known as the God Particle.'
'Researchers presented results from two independent experiments...'
'..evidence which helps them move closer to the building blocks of the universe.'
What had emerged during the meeting was that a potential
signal of the Higgs had been spotted in both experiments.
And crucially, in practically the same place.
It was very exciting.
People were getting the Atlas data and the CMS data
and going, "Do they really see the same thing?" and all this.
It was a lot of fun, actually, and a major step forward.
The results weren't definitive,
but in the month between November and December
the data plots had evolved significantly.
So the announcement was that the LHC,
with the new data from the whole of 2011, is able to expand
the area that it can exclude the Higgs from.
The new lower limit has risen to 115 GeV.
And the new upper limit has dropped to 127 GeV.
So the really exciting thing was that the reason the LHC experiments weren't able to exclude
anything inside this remaining window, is that in fact they see an
excess of events. The early signs of the Higgs boson, if it's there.
And the excesses were in practically the same place.
CMS observed one at 124 GeV,
and Atlas one at 126.
So this is really a tantalising hint that the Higgs boson
might exist, and it might have a mass of around 125 GeV.
I think a lot of people will be really interested to see what
happens in this region when we add more data in 2012.
That's going to be really exciting to follow.
For all the buzz surrounding the Higgs,
scientists can't claim to have officially discovered
this elusive particle just yet.
And there are some outstanding questions
about WHY it would have this mass.
But with such promising data so far,
it's hard not to be enthusiastic.
Six months ago I would have said that there probably is no Higgs.
It's a neat idea, but what are the chances of nature
actually doing what we think it should do?
But now I think maybe it has. This is kind of remarkable.
What's clear, though, is that with four times the amount of data
expected out of the LHC next year,
this long-standing question will finally be resolved.
I mean, there will be a day, some time next year, where
we will go in not knowing whether the Higgs boson exists or not,
and we will come out... And that that will be a fact, you know -
we will know one way or the other, and our knowledge of the universe will have expanded.
-In a big way, as well. I mean...
It may not be everyone's idea of a great time,
but what we're seeing is physics textbooks being written.
And to me, having studied physics for so long,
and known what's in those textbooks, and taught people
from those textbooks, to see new pages being written that will never
be unwritten, this is something new we know, that we didn't know before
that we will always know afterwards. That is really exciting.
If the Higgs is confirmed at last,
then it'll open a new chapter
in our understanding of how the universe works.
Scientists plan to use the completed standard model
as the foundation for an even deeper description of the universe,
one based on the idea of symmetry and its breakage.
That could take our knowledge of the cosmos even further back
into that crucial first second of existence,
right to the moment of the big bang itself.
It's long been a dream of theorists to wind the clock back to the instant of creation,
a place, so far, no machine has been able to go.
Here, they believed they'd find a moment of absolute symmetry.
The state of perfect symmetry
is very similar to the state of perfect balance.
Think of a spinning top.
It exists in a state of perfect rotational symmetry.
No matter how you rotate, everything looks the same.
Just like with the spinning top, at this instant of creation,
everything in the universe would've been the same.
There'd be no distinction between gravity and electromagnetism,
light and dark, matter and forces.
But perfection can't last.
The slightest imperfection, the slightest little defect,
will cause it to vibrate and fall to a lower energy state.
Symmetry has been broken.
Within a fraction of a second of the big bang,
physicists believe the absolute symmetry of the universe was shattered by a tiny fluctuation.
The forces split apart.
The particles of the standard model became distinct.
This fall from perfection was what allowed us to come into being.
Everything we see around us is nothing but fragments of this original perfection.
Whenever you see a beautiful snowflake, a beautiful crystal
or even the symmetry of stars in the universe,
that's a fragment, that's a piece of the original symmetry at the beginning of time.
By unifying the fragments,
physicists think they'll find the ultimate key
to how the universe was born.
The Higgs is a vital stepping stone in this mission.
But in their quest for unification,
theoretical physicists have taken the idea of symmetry
to a new, extraordinary level.
When James Gates came to study at MIT,
he was keen to unlock the secrets of the universe.
And he was prepared to push the boundaries of his thinking a little further than most.
The universe and we are intricately tied together.
This idea of unity turns out to be one of the most powerful driving themes in physics.
And it keeps getting us to look for deeper and deeper connections.
Ultimately, perhaps we exist because the universe had no other choice.
He began with the standard model -
the collection of building blocks of matter
and the forces that hold them together.
Could these two very different groups of particles
be connected in some more fundamental way?
So, when we find something in nature that doesn't have a symmetry,
we always ask the question, "Why?"
and then we go one step further and ask the question, "What if?"
It was the asking of this "what if?" question
that drove the construction of supersymmetry
which had an incredible resonance for me when I was a graduate student.
I saw one more beautiful balance that we could put in nature.
James became one of the pioneers
of a powerful new mathematical theory called supersymmetry.
Using symmetry in equations had previously led to the discovery of antimatter.
These new ones suggested there was a hidden world of particles no-one had suspected.
Mathematics leads us to find things we didn't know were there before.
Supersymmetry is an example of that.
We know about ordinary matter.
The maths leads you on to discover super-matter and super-energy.
The theory took everything we thought we knew about,
even the Higgs, and doubled it...
..giving every matter particle a force partner
and every force particle a matter partner.
These heavier, supersymmetric twins were labelled sparticles.
So, once you believe this maths that says there's more to existence
then you have to wonder what these other things are.
You have to name them, at the very first step.
So, in nature, there's a thing called the electron.
The maths says it has a superpartner called the selectron.
Muon - there'd have to be the smuon.
Photon - there'd have to be a photino.
Quark - there'd have to be squarks.
Z particle - there'd have to be zino.
W particle - there'd have to be a wino.
And that's how supersymmetry works.
According to supersymmetry,
matter and forces aren't so distinct after all.
There's a grand symmetry between them.
But we can currently see only one partner from each pair.
However strange it seems,
this theory has gained widespread support from theoretical physicists...
..not just for the beauty of its equations
but for what it might help explain.
When supersymmetry began as a topic of discussion,
no-one realised what it can do.
It turned out that, studying the mathematics,
we get a firm foundation for the existence of everything.
One of the great attractions of supersymmetry is it helps to resolve a niggling problem
with the existence of the Higgs particle,
alleviating the need for mathematical fudges
in the standard model to fix its mass.
This object called the Higgs? The mass of this could fluctuate,
except if there's supersymmetry and that stabilises the mass.
Supersymmetry makes the mass of the Higgs more natural, more stable, less of a wild coincidence.
It could even help explain why there's more matter than antimatter in the early universe.
Supersymmetry is the theory that, if it were true,
could allow the rates of matter and antimatter interactions early on
to be great enough to explain the asymmetry we need in the early universe.
Supersymmetry pieces together more broken fragments from that first second of existence.
I very much want supersymmetry,
because it's a beautiful thing, by any standard
and would take our understanding of nature to a new level.
So, I want that.
But, so far, it's just a theory, with no experimental data
to support it.
At least, not yet.
That's where the £6 billion experiments at CERN
may really usher in a revolution.
Because they're hunting for evidence of supersymmetry.
So, here we are now, 100 metres underground,
where the LHCB detector is installed.
Since the accelerator is stopped now for a few days, we can actually go in and see the detector.
Richard Jacobsson is in charge of the operation of the detector
that may give the first clues about supersymmetric particles.
So, this is really where the dreams of theorists meet reality.
Theorists, they invent new ideas as they go
and our job as experimentalists is to actually find out
which of these theories are definitely wrong
and which are the ones we can establish, measure,
that actually correspond to what we measure in the experiment.
So far, not only have they found no evidence of the photinos,
squarks or other sparticles predicted by the theorists,
they've even ruled out the possibility of them
at some of the energies theorists were hoping they'd be.
Throughout this year, we've recorded more than ten billion reactions between protons.
By studying them very precisely, we've been able to sort of exclude certain versions of supersymmetry.
For the theorists, this means they have to look in a different direction.
But the first, tantalising glimpse of the Higgs will have come as an encouragement to scientists here,
because the mass of the Higgs
determines the mass of the sparticles.
And if they were too heavy, the LHC would be simply unable to create them.
Fortunately, the mass of the Higgs they have hints of
means evidence of the sparticles should show up in this machine.
That's IF they exist.
JAMES GATES: LHC is up and running. So far, there's no sign of superparticles.
If we find supersymmetry in experiments,
for me, personally, it will mean that I have not wasted my entire research career
because this is the one question, as a young scientist, I decided had my name on it to study.
I'm starting to get nervous.
So, there were a lot of people who predicted supersymmetry was just around the corner,
or something else, that as soon as LHC turned on, they'd see spectacular effects,
or that the Higgs particle would be heavy. Those were all wrong.
So far, nothing I believed in has been proved wrong and a lot of the competition has gone up in smoke.
But the crunch time is coming.
They're going to be capable of seeing things I've predicted or want
and we'll see. It's in the hands of God or CERN or something.
Now it's make or break time.
For the scientists involved,
pushing the frontiers of knowledge is a roller coaster ride.
And, with the Large Hadron Collider, the journey has only just begun.
This machine has opened the door to physics, above this key energy scale in nature,
where the symmetries of nature change fundamentally.
You don't get the key, open the door, go, "Well, that was nice," then close the door.
You see what's happening.
That's what we'll be doing in the next many years.
If every theory was like a room,
it's like we looked in the first one down the corridor,
-and already we found something exciting, so now we can't wait to look in all the others, right?
There's loads more stuff we'd like to look for at the LHC,
like supersymmetry, extra dimensions...
New fundamental forces.
Substructure inside quarks, black holes...
-Miniature black holes.
-Think of your favourite theory and double it...
-The possibilities are endless.
To put this into perspective,
I think the last time we stood in such an exciting place
was 1905, when Einstein discovered special relativity
and announced the most famous equation in physics - E=mc2.
Because if the Higgs is confirmed,
it's about much more than just a spectacular discovery.
It'll also open a new chapter in physics, ask new questions,
setting off the search for an even deeper understanding of nature.
But we simply can't say where THAT search will take us.