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One of the most important discoveries in Physics since Einstein's Theory of Relativity has possibly just been made at CERN and dozens of Pakistani scientists have contributed to it.

Scientists at CERN claim that they have discovered the Higgs field, also nicknamed the "God particle" that travels faster than light, thereby proving Einstein wrong, according to the Associated Press reports.

"The feeling that most people have is this can't be right, this can't be real," the AP story quotes James Gillies, a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.



The most high-profile effort to find "God Particle" is taking place about 300 ft below ground in a tunnel at the French-Swiss border. Buried there is a massive particle accelerator and super collider called LHC (Large Hadron Collider) run by the Swiss lab CERN (European Organization of Nuclear Research), which has two beams of particles racing at nearly the speed of light in opposite directions and the resulting particles produced from collisions are being detected by massive detectors in the hope of experimentally finding the fundamental particle of which everything in the universe is built from: God Particle.



Among the world scientists working at CERN on LHC project is Professor Hafeez Hoorani of Pakistan's Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He is one of 27 Pakistani scientists at CERN.CERN is the most highly respected research lab in Switzerland responsible for LHC. He acknowledges that Pakistan government's support for Pakistani scientists' serious involvement at CERN materialized only after 1999, the year former President Musharraf's government assumed power. He also gives credit to Dr. Abdus Salam, Pakistan's only Nobel Laureate, for inspiring him and his colleagues to pursue serious scientific research. Here's what Professor Hoorani says about Pakistan's involvement in LHC and CERN:

When I first came to CERN, I was mainly working on technical things but became increasingly involved in political issues. In 1999, I went back to Pakistan to set up a group working on different aspects of the LHC project. There I had to convince my people and my government to collaborate with CERN, which was rather difficult, since nobody associated science with Switzerland. It is known as a place for tourism, for its watches, and nice places to visit.

However, Pakistan already had an early connection to CERN through the late Abdus Salam, the sole Nobel laureate from Pakistan in science and one of the fathers of the electroweak theory. CERN has been known to the scientific community of Pakistan since 1973 through the discovery of neutral currents which eventually led to the Nobel Prize for Salam. We are contributing much more now because of the students who worked with Salam, who know his theories and CERN, and who are now placed at highly influential positions within the government of Pakistan. They have helped and pushed Pakistan towards a very meaningful scientific collaboration with CERN. People now know that there is an organization called CERN. It took a long time to explain what CERN is about, and I brought many people here to show them, because they did not imagine CERN this way. Many people support us now which gives us hope…”



In addition to the 27 scientists, Pakistan has made material contributions to the tune of $10m. Pakistan signed an agreement with CERN which doubled the Pakistani contribution from one to two million Swiss francs. And with this new agreement Pakistan started construction of the resistive plate chambers required for the CMS muon system. While more recently, a protocol has been signed enhancing Pakistan’s total contribution to the LHC program to $10 million.

CERN is a pan-European effort and all of its member states are European. Pakistan, with all of its contributions to LHC project, is hoping to join the ranks of India, Israel, Japan, Russia, Turkey and United States as an observer state at CERN.

Pakistan has contributed the LHC in numerous ways including some of the following in particular:

1. Detector construction
2. Detector simulation
3. Physics analysis
4. Grid computing
5. Computational software development
6. Manufacturing of mechanical equipment
7. Alignment of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) tracker using lasers
8. Testing of electronic equipment
9. Barrel Yoke: 35 Ton each feet made in Pakistan
10. Assembly of CF (Carbon Fiber) Fins for the Silicon Tracker’s TOB (Tracker Outer Barrel).
11. 245 of the 300 CMS chambers required were made in Islamabad.

The Higgs boson, also known as "God Particle", is a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics. It is the only Standard Model particle not yet experimentally observed. An experimental observation of it would help to explain how otherwise massless elementary particles cause matter to have mass. More specifically, the Higgs boson would explain the difference between the massless photon and the relatively massive W and Z bosons. Elementary particle masses, and the differences between electromagnetism (caused by the photon) and the weak force (caused by the W and Z bosons), are critical to many aspects of the structure of microscopic (and hence macroscopic) matter; thus, if it exists, the Higgs boson is an integral and pervasive component of the material world.

The Standard Model of particle physics has its limits. It can't explain several big mysteries about the universe that have their roots in the minuscule world of particles and forces. If there's one truly extraordinary concept to emerge from the past century of inquiry, it's that the cosmos we see was once smaller than an atom. This is why particle physicists talk about cosmology and cosmologists talk about particle physics: Our existence, our entire universe, emerged from things that happened at the smallest imaginable scale. The big bang theory tells us that the known universe once had no dimensions at all—no up or down, no left or right, no passage of time, and laws of physics beyond our vision.

There have been many other efforts to build particle accelerators and supercolliders including SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator) and Fermi Collider, but none so ambitious and massive as the LHC. This discovery, if indeed confirmed, will advance human knowledge dramatically and eventually help treat diseases, improve the Internet, and open doors to travel through extra dimensions, according to the scientists associated with it.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Joint CERN-Pakistan Meeting 2011

Pakistanis Conducting Research in Antarctica

Pakistani Scientists at CERN

Pakistan's Story After 64 Years of Independence

Pakistan Ahead of India in Graduation Rates

Dr. Ata-ur-Rehman on HEC's Role in Pakistan

CERN Website

Wikipedia

CERN and the LHC Program

National Geographic

WTF Website

PAEC Newsletter

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Here's a National Geographic report on discovery of Higgs Boson:

..The long-sought particle may complete the standard model of physics by explaining why objects in our universe have mass—and in so doing, why galaxies, planets, and even humans have any right to exist.

"We have a discovery," Heuer said at the seminar. "We have observed a new particle consistent with a Higgs boson."

At the meeting were four theorists who helped develop the Higgs theory in the 1960s, including Peter Higgs himself, who could be seen wiping away tears as the announcement was made.

Although preliminary, the results show a so-called five-sigma of significance, which means that there is only a one in a million chance that the Higgs-like signal the teams observed is a statistical fluke.

"It's a tremendous and exciting time," said physicist Michael Tuts, who works with the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus) Experiment, one of the two Higgs-seeking LHC projects.

The Columbia University physicist had organized a wee-hours gathering of physicists and students in the U.S. to watch the announcement, which took place at 9 a.m., Geneva time.

"This is the payoff. This is what you do it for."

The two LHC teams searching for the Higgs—the other being the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) project—did so independently. Neither one knew what the other would present this morning.

"It was interesting that the competing experiment essentially had the same result," said physicist Ryszard Stroynowski, an ATLAS team member based at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "It provides additional confirmation."

CERN head Heuer called today's announcement a "historic milestone" but cautioned that much work lies ahead as physicists attempt to confirm the newfound particle's identity and further probe its properties.

For example, though the teams are certain the new particle has the proper mass for the predicted Higgs boson, they still need to determine whether it behaves as the God particle is thought to behave—and therefore what its role in the creation and maintenance of the universe is.

"I think we can all be proud ... but it's a beginning," Heuer said.

Higgs Boson Results Exceeded Expectations

The five-sigma results from both the ATLAS and CMS experiments exceeded the expectations of many physicists, including David Evans, leader of the U.K. team that works on the LHC-based ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) Collaboration.

Evans had predicted Tuesday the teams would announce a four-sigma result—just short of the rigorous standard traditionally required for a new-particle observation to officially count as a true discovery and not a fluke.

"It's even better than I expected," said Evans, of the University of Birmingham in the U.K. "I think we can say the Higgs is here. It exists."

Evans attributed the stronger-than-expected results to "a mixture of the LHC doing a fantastic job" and "ATLAS and CMS doing a fantastic job of improving their analysis since December," when the two teams announced a two-sigma observation of signs of a Higgs-like particle.

"So even with the same data, they can get more significance."

ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti also had high praise for the LHC, a multibillion-dollar machine that had suffered numerous mishaps and setbacks in its early days. (Related: "Electrical Glitch Delays Large Hadron Collider."
----------..
Evans attributed the stronger-than-expected results to "a mixture of the LHC doing a fantastic job" and "ATLAS and CMS doing a fantastic job of improving their analysis since December," when the two teams announced a two-sigma observation of signs of a Higgs-like particle.

"So even with the same data, they can get more significance."

ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti also had high praise for the LHC, a multibillion-dollar machine that had suffered numerous mishaps and setbacks in its early days. (Related: "Electrical Glitch Delays Large Hadron Collider.")

"The LHC and experiments have been doing miracles. I think we are working beyond design," the Italian particle physicist added.

ALICE's Evans said he was extremely pleased by the Higgs results but admitted feeling just a bit disappointed that the results weren't more surprising.

"Secretly I would have loved it to be something slightly different than the standard model predictions, because that would indicate that there's something more out there."

On God-Particle Hunt, It's "Easy to Fool Yourself"

Wednesday's announcement builds on results from last December, when the ATLAS and CMS teams said their data suggested that the Higgs boson has a mass of about 125 gigaelectron volts (GeV)—about 125 times the mass of a proton, a positively charged particle in an atom's nucleus.

(See "Hints of Higgs Boson Seen at LHC—Proof by Next Summer?")

"For the first time there was a case where we expected to [rule out] the Higgs, and we weren't able to do so," said Tim Barklow, an experimental physicist with the ATLAS Experiment who's based at Stanford University's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

A two-sigma finding translates to about a 95 percent chance that results are not due to a statistical fluke.

While that might seem impressive, it falls short of the stringent five-sigma level that high-energy physicists traditionally require for an official discovery. Five sigma means there's a less than one in a million probability that a finding is due to chance.

"We make these rules and impose them on ourselves because, when you are exploring on the frontier, it is easy to fool yourself," said Michael Peskin, a theoretical physicist also at SLAC.

(Related: "'God Particle' May Be Five Distinct Particles, New Evidence Shows.")

Higgs Holds It All Together?

The Higgs boson is one of the final puzzle pieces required for a complete understanding of the standard model of physics—the so-far successful theory that explains how fundamental particles interact with the elementary forces of nature.

The so-called God particle was proposed in the 1960s by Peter Higgs to explain why some particles, such as quarks—building blocks of protons, among other things—and electrons have mass, while others, such as the light-carrying photon particle, do not.

Higgs's idea was that the universe is bathed in an invisible field similar to a magnetic field. Every particle feels this field—now known as the Higgs field—but to varying degrees.

If a particle can move through this field with little or no interaction, there will be no drag, and that particle will have little or no mass. Alternatively, if a particle interacts significantly with the Higgs field, it will have a higher mass.

The idea of the Higgs field requires the acceptance of a related particle: the Higgs boson.

According to the standard model, if the Higgs field didn't exist, the universe would be a very different place, said SLAC's Peskin, who isn't involved in the LHC experiments.

"It would be very difficult to form atoms," Peskin said. "So our orderly world, where matter is made of atoms, and electrons form chemical bonds—we wouldn't have that if we did not have the Higgs field."

In other words: no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no life on Earth.

"Nature Is Really Nasty" to Higgs Boson Seekers

Buried beneath the French-Swiss border, the Large Hadron Collider is essentially a 17-mile-long (27-kilometer-long) oval tunnel. Inside, counter-rotating beams of protons are boosted to nearly the speed of light using an electric field before being magnetically steered into collisions.

Exotic fundamental particles—some of which likely haven't existed since the early moments after the big bang—are created in the high-energy crashes. But the odd particles hang around for only fractions of a second before decaying into other particles.

(Also see "Strange Particle Created; May Rewrite How Matter's Made.")

Theory predicts that the Higgs boson's existence is too fleeting to be recorded by LHC instruments, but physicists think they can confirm its creation if they can spot the particles it decays into. (Explore a Higgs boson interactive.)

Now that the Higgs boson—or something like it—has been confirmed to indeed have a mass of around 125 to 126 GeV, scientists have a better idea why the God particle has avoided detection for so long.

This mass is just high enough to be out of reach of earlier, lower-energy particle accelerators, such as the LHC's predecessor, the Large Electron-Positron Collider, which could probe to only about 115 GeV.

At the same time 125 GeV is not so massive that it produces decay products so unusual that their detection would be clear proof of the Higgs's existence.

In reality the Higgs appears to transform into relatively commonplace decay products such as quarks, which are produced by the millions at the LHC.

"It just so happens that nature is really nasty to us, and the range that we've narrowed [the Higgs] down to is the range that makes it most difficult to find," ALICE's Evans said.

Despite the challenges, ATLAS's Gianotti said, it's fortunate that the Higgs has the mass that it does.

"It's very nice for the standard-model Higgs boson to be at that mass," she said. "Because at that mass we can measure it at the LHC in a huge number of final states. So, thanks Nature."

Going for the Gold

While the search for the Higgs was a primary motivation for the construction of the LHC, activity at the world's largest atom smasher won't stop if the Higgs boson is confirmed.

For one thing, the two teams will be busy preparing the data they presented today for submission to scientific journals for publication.

There are also lingering questions that will require years of follow-up work, such as what the God particle's "decay channels" are—that is, what particles the Higgs transforms into as it sheds energy.

The answer to that question will allow physicists to determine whether the particle they have discovered is the one predicted from theory or something more exotic, Columbia University's Tuts said.

"Does it really smell and taste like a Higgs? Is it being produced at the rate that a standard model Higgs would predict? That's the work that's going to go on over the course of this year at least," he added.

Something the public often forgets, too, is that ATLAS and CMS make up only two of the LHC's four major experiments, Evans said. The other two—the LHCb Collaboration and Evan's own ALICE—are investigating other physics arcana, such as why the universe contains so little antimatter.

(See "Antimatter Atoms Trapped for First Time—'A Big Deal.'")

"If you want to compare it to the Olympics, finding the Higgs would be like winning just one gold medal," Evans said.

"I'm sure most countries would like to win more than one gold medal. And I think CERN is going to deliver a lot more gold medals over the years."

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/07/120704-god-particle...

Here's an ET piece on Dr. Salam's contribution to Higgs Boson:

Few Pakistanis know what the Higgs boson is and even fewer realise that some of the earliest theoretical groundwork that led to this discovery was laid by Pakistan’s only Nobel laureate, Dr Abdus Salam.

The Higgs boson is a subatomic particle whose existence was confirmed by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (known by its French acronym, CERN) on July 4. The discovery of the particle provides the last remaining bit of empirical evidence necessary for the Standard Model of physics, which seeks to explain the existence of all forces in the universe except gravity.

In the 1950s, physicists were aware of four different types of forces in the universe: gravity, electromagnetic force, the force that attracts an electron towards the nucleus of an atom (weak nuclear force), and the force that keeps the nucleus of the atom together (strong nuclear force). The Standard Model can offer an integrated explanation for the latter three of those forces. Its origins lay in the discovery in 1960 by American physicist Sheldon Glashow of the fact that the weak nuclear force and electromagnetic force are the same thing.

Of the many discoveries that later solidified the Standard Model of physics was work done in 1967 by Dr Abdus Salam and American physicist Steven Weinberg in unifying the Higgs mechanism to Glashow’s theory, giving the “electroweak theory” its current form. But Dr Salam’s contributions to particle physics do not end there. Collaborating with Indian physicist Jogesh Pati, he proposed the Pati-Salam model in 1974, which further moved forward the theoretical underpinnings of the Standard Model.

It was for this body of work that Salam, along with Weinberg and Glashow, was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1979.

While this work in theoretical physics may seem obscure and with little practical application, the tools created by physicists engaged in this research are ones we all live with today. For instance, in order to assist the thousands of physicists around the world collaborating on this project, European scientists helped develop the internet. The need to crunch massive amounts of data led to the development of what is now known as cloud computing....

http://tribune.com.pk/story/404370/higgs-boson-pakistans-contributi...

Here's an Express Tribune story on Pakistan becoming associate member of CERN:

Pakistan on Friday moved a step closer to becoming associate member of European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
According to scientists at the National Centre for Physics (NCP) which has been collaborating with CERN since 2000, the CERN Council unanimously approved in principle Pakistan’s name for the process of achieving associate membership, at a meeting on September 17.
The final approval for associate membership depends upon the report of a CERN “fact-finding mission” which will visit Pakistan in February 2014, said Dr Hafeez Hoorani, who is the Director Research at NCP.
The Council’s approval marks the culmination of a process that was initiated by Pakistani scientists in 2008 and has witnessed scientific lobbying, political delays and even a diplomatic campaign by the Pakistani Foreign Office. It also signals the beginning of a process that could potentially lead to Pakistan’s associate membership by the end of 2014.

Located on the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, Switzerland, CERN conducts some of the most complex scientific experiments of all-time in a bid to understand the structure of the universe. It is the birthplace of the World Wide Web and is home to the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Pakistan is already contributing to CERN projects including designing detection technology and providing personnel support for the LHC’s maintenance. Associate membership could take the level of collaboration up a notch....
---------
The CERN Council consists of 20 member states — all European countries — which are represented by two members each, a scientist and a diplomat. According to NCP scientists, the diplomats were reluctant when Pakistan’s associate membership application came up this year.
CERN has three associate members at present: Serbia, Israel and Ukraine. Responding to a question, Hoorani said Pakistan has also beaten regional neighbour India to the membership process.
Following the approval from the Council, a four-member CERN team led by Director for Research and Computing, Sergio Bertolluci, will visit Pakistan in 2014, he said.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/613789/ahead-of-new-delhi-pakistan-move...

Here's a Dawn report on an emerging science city in Karachi:

....Of these five centers, one is the only institute for human clinical trials in Pakistan, the other a core of computational biology and the third provides consultancy to people suffering from genetic diseases.

----

The centers and their growth have been working towards what has been termed as a ‘silent revolution’ and had been described by Professor Wolfgang Voelter of Tubingen University as a ‘miracle.’

The Hussain Ebrahim Jamal (HEJ) Research Institute of Chemistry was only a small post graduate institute before a generous donation of Rs 5 million in 1976 set the center towards the path of excellence. Latif Ebrahim Jamal’s endowment, on behalf of the Hussain Ebrahim Jamal Foundation, was the largest private funding for science in Pakistan at the time.

The center houses old NMR machines of 300 megahertz to state-of-the-art Liquid Chromatograph Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (LCNMR).

Under the leadership of eminent chemist Dr Salimuzzaman Siddiqui and Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, the institute became a magnet for more funding and projects from around the world. Over a period of time, it received $30 million in funding from various countries. Recently, Islamic Development Bank (IDB) donated $ 40 million for research on regional and tropical diseases. Dr Atta-ur-Rehman, a renowned chemist and the former chairman of Higher Education Commission said,

---
Currently, the center has one of the largest PhD programs in the country in the fields of natural product chemistry, plant biotechnology, computational biology, spectroscopy and other disciplines at the frontiers of science.

Young scholars research scientific literature at the LEJ National Science Information Center. The facility is connected to the world’s largest science database, ranging from thousands of primary research journals and books. -Photo by author
Young scholars research scientific literature at the LEJ National Science Information Center. The facility is connected to the world’s largest science database, ranging from thousands of primary research journals and books. -Photo by author
The ground floor of the institute holds 12 state-of-the-art Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) machines that are vital in the research of the structure, reaction and other properties of various compounds and molecules, as well as an X-ray crystallography setup which uses X-rays to learn the structure of crystalline material.

The X-ray crystallography setup is used to construct 3-D structures of molecules under study. -Photo by author
The X-ray crystallography setup is used to construct 3-D structures of molecules under study. -Photo by author
“We have recently finished the structure of a compound showing anti-inflammatory activity,” said Sammer Yousuf, senior research officer at the institute who was awarded the Regional Prize for Young Scientists by the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) in 2011 for her work.

“In the last two and a half years our institute was awarded 24 international patents,” Dr Rehman proudly adds.

Since its inception, the HEJ which was inducted into the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) in the ‘90s has produced hundreds of doctorates, thousands of papers and hundreds of international patents, and also helps over 350 industries across Pakistan. The Industrial Analytical Center at the HEJ provides testing, consultancy and research for various industries in Pakistan.

The construction of a state-of-the-art center for nanotechnology is underway while the Jamil-ur-Rehman Center for Genome Research, also falling under HEJ, is almost complete. The center, named after Dr Rehman’s father who was the main donor of the institute, already houses modern gene sequencing machines.

http://dawn.com/news/1058496/pakistans-silent-revolution

It's the birthday of Abdus Salam, who was born in 1926 in Jhang, a rural community in what is now Pakistan. Salam attended Punjab University and then Cambridge University, where he earned a PhD in 1952. In the 1960s, he and, independently, Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg identified a symmetry that is shared in a class of field theories by the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces. The symmetry implied that the two forces are really different manifestations of the same force, which Salam named electroweak. Glashow, Salam and Weinberg's unification also predicted the existence of two bosons: W, which mediates beta decay, and Z, which mediates the transfer of momentum, spin and energy in neutrino scattering. In 1973 a clear manifestation of the Z was discovered in CERN's Gargamelle bubble chamber. Six years later Glashow, Salam and Weinberg were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Salam was also a founder of the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, which has supported the studies of physicists from the developing world since its founding in 1964. 

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