Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Discovering The Z Boson

In the early 1970s, a few years after my father graduated from Standard with an engineering PhD, while he was working as an associate professor in Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia and was just starting his family, physicists discovered "weak neutral currents".

We now understand these phenomena to be mediated by the Z boson of the Standard Model of Particle Physics.  At the time, this had been predicted by the Glashow-Salam-Weinberg model that would eventually become the Standard Model, but not yet confirmed experimentally.  The 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson provided the finishing touch of experimental confirmation for direct descendant of that model.

nice introductory talk at the Neutrino 2014 conference in Boston this week, tells the story of what it was like to be a scientist doing the work that led to that discovery back then.  The drama, played out with slide rules, electronic punch card mainframe computers, hand written transparencies, and small collaborations recalls stories that I heard when I was growing up from my father about academic life in the STEM fields in the early 1970s.

It is remarkably how sophisticated those scientists could be without so many of the fundamental tools used by modern investigators.

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