Lake E-ffect Newsletter banner SUNY Oswego logoAugust 2012 • Vol 8 • No 5

Oswego Student Feels Pull of Tiny Particle

Ed. Note: This story appeared in the July 10 edition of the Oswego Palladium-Times. It is excerpted here with permission.

Scientists at the world's biggest atom smasher hailed the discovery of "the missing cornerstone of physics" July 4, cheering the apparent end of a decades-long quest for a new subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, or "God particle," which could help explain why all matter has mass and crack open a new realm of subatomic science.

As two independent teams involving more than 5,000 researchers announced the highly technical findings, the usually sedate corridors of the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, erupted in frequent applause and standing ovations. Physicists who spent their careers in pursuit of the particle shed tears.

An Oswego student found himself in the midst of the celebrations by scientists in Geneva, Switzerland.

"The atmosphere here reflects the tremendous satisfaction that everyone who worked at CERN feels," said computer science major Chad Brooks '13, taking part in Oswego's Global Laboratory program this summer in Switzerland. "Many people around the ISDC (Data Center for Astrophysics) have been watching press conferences and eagerly soaking up the news of the discovery."

With help from physics professors Shashi Kanbur and James Early, as well as Earl Bellinger '12, Brooks applied for and was one of 17 projects chosen for this summer's program.

Although a computer science major, Brooks is studying astrophysics as it relates to the classification of variable stars and a mapping project for the galaxy. Brooks, who has co-authored several papers, is working at the Observatory of Geneva on the project with respected scientists in the field.

"As I gather, this is a wonderful achievement and they all believe it likely that Peter Higgs will be a Nobel Prize nominee," he said.

The new particle appears to share many of the same qualities as the one predicted by Scottish physicist Peter Higgs and others and is perhaps the biggest accomplishment at CERN since its founding in 1954 outside Geneva along the Swiss-French border.

"I haven't met any of the individuals responsible for the Higgs boson discovery but as soon as I get the chance, I'm going to take a tour of CERN and get a firsthand look at the huge particle collider," Brooks said in July.

The phrase "God particle" was coined by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, but it's used mostly by laymen as an easier way of explaining the theory.

"As far as the impact upon me, it hasn't been overly significant," Brooks said. "At the same time, it seems like a tangible production of humanity's scientific aspirations, the likes of which I haven't been old enough to appreciate fully, until now that is."

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