The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 was a crucial confirmation of the Standard Model of Particle Physics, the theoretical framework that underpins what we know of the quantum world. But this theory is limited and there’s physics beyond it. Now researchers at CERN are using the Higgs boson itself to test the limits of the standard model.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN creates Higgs bosons by colliding beams of protons that are moving at almost the speed of light. Each of these particles has a lot of energy and, when smashed into one another, they shine a light on rarer interactions and particles.
Physics beyond the standard model is expected to require higher energies than what’s currently possible with the LHC. However, hints of these interactions might be seen in the way the Higgs boson decays into other particles.
Members of the ATLAS collaboration (one of four LHC experiments) have recently discussed how a decade's worth of data from the LHC could provide insight into theories such as the effective field theory (EFT) and Minimal Supersymmetric standard model (MSSM).
So far, no direct evidence supporting these models have been observed. The data from the Higgs, however, has provided some stronger constraints on these ideas. The ATLAS results suggest that if EFT interactions exist, they are either at energies higher than what we can currently test or in ways that cannot be probed by the Higgs.
The MSSM suggests there is not just a single Higgs but five, and the one we have seen is expected to be the lightest of them all. The data has not found any evidence of other Higgs bosons, but it was able to exclude many possible versions of this theory.
We know the standard model is limited because it doesn’t include gravity and yet-to-be-confirmed things such as dark energy and dark matter. Despite this, it is extremely difficult to find flaws in this theory, one of the finest humanity has ever formulated. The standard model wins again today and it will continue to win, until one day it doesn’t.