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'God particle' talk in layman's terms

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
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Dhiman Chakraborty

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University physics professor Dhiman Chakraborty is preparing to reprise his popular talk on the mysterious Higgs boson for the DeKalb community.

For decades, the Higgs boson was the holy grail of particle physics. Its detection confirms the existence of the Higgs field, which permeates the universe and gives particles mass. Without the Higgs boson and field, nothing would exist – no animals, oceans, planets or stars.

Chakraborty gave a presentation on the elementary particle to a packed house last month at an Irish pub in Geneva. His next talk will be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11, at O’Leary’s Restaurant and Pub, 260 E. Lincoln Highway in DeKalb.

The free event is part of the STEM Café series run by NIU STEM Outreach. It will provide a layman’s perspective on the profound nature of the theory predicting the Higgs and talk about how scientists confirmed the theory experimentally.

Chakraborty leads a group of NIU scientists and students who are members of the ATLAS collaboration at CERN, one of the European laboratory’s two experiments that jointly discovered the Higgs boson last year.

“This discussion is geared for the general public,” said Chakraborty, who received NIU’s top honor for research, the Presidential Research Professorship, in 2011.

Famously dubbed the “God particle,” the Higgs boson took thousands of scientists nearly five decades to discover, at a cost that one journalist estimated at $13.25 billion.

Over the past 19 months, there has been plenty of hype about “the Higgs,” beginning with the boson’s discovery in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. In November, the Nobel Prize in physics went to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, two of the scientists who developed theories in the 1960s that predicted the elementary particle.

Over the past two decades, Chakraborty has helped shed light on the building blocks of our universe, making contributions to scientific understanding of the subatomic world, the discovery of the top quark at Fermilab and the pursuit of the Higgs.

“My talk will include a discussion about where scientists will go from here experimentally and what benefits these efforts bring to our everyday lives,” Chakraborty said. “Although producing material benefits is not the primary objective of basic research, I believe the audience will be surprised to learn how particle physics benefits society in a variety of way. They will also be surprised by how much work this research requires and how rigorous and precise we have to be to make these discoveries.”

Geared for the general public, NIU’s monthly STEM Cafés present cutting-edge research in science, technology, engineering and math, followed by question-and-answer sessions led by NIU’s STEM experts.

For more information, contact Judith Dymond at (815) 753-4751 or jdymond@niu.edu.

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