Nova (1974–…): Season 42, Episode 1 - Big Bang Machine - full transcript

On July 4, 2012, scientists at the giant atom smashing facility at CERN announced the discovery of a subatomic particle that seems like a tantalizingly close match to the elusive Higgs Boson, thought to be responsible for giving all the stuff in the universe its mass. Since it was first proposed nearly 50 years ago, the Higgs has been the holy grail of particle physicists: finding it completes the "standard model" that underlies all of modern particle physics. Now CERN's scientists are preparing for the Large Hadron Collider's second act, when they restart the history-making collider, running at higher energy -- hoping for the next great discovery that will change what we know about the particles and forces that make up our universe.

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -
They built the largest,
most complex machine in history,

to probe the deepest mysteries
of the early universe,

as it was
at the beginning of time

The Large Hadron Collider is
allowing us to see right back

to ten to the minus 12 seconds
after the Big Bang

Within two massive detectors,

in conditions harsher
even than outer space,

tiny particles smash together
at nearly the speed of light

unleashing incredible energy

Trying to figure out

what happens in the collision of
two protons at very high energy

is like analyzing what happens

in the high-speed collision
of two garbage trucks

Within that spray of debris,
physicists search

for a tiny bundle of energy,
a subatomic particle

proof of an invisible energy
field that fills all of space

It just may be

the most important feature
of our universe

Without it

There are no atoms,

there's no chemistry,
there's no life

50 years of effort, $10 billion,

and thousands of researchers
around the world

For them, the stakes have
never been higher

It's practically

my whole professional life
that's led to this point

It's the moment of truth
when science flips the switch

on the Big Bang Machine

One, zero

Right now, on NOVA.

In Europe, a stunning

One of the world's
most-wanted fugitives

has finally been captured


The announcement came

at the end of a high-speed,
high-stakes chase

A mystery

300 people were hot on the trail

Decades worth of work

It was a truly
international effort

that drew to its dramatic
conclusion here

It's a historic milestone today

On the border of France
and Switzerland,

300 feet below ground

But this wasn't a search
for some outlaw

or criminal mastermind

It was a hunt for something
far more elusive

An unstable bundle of energy
far smaller than an atom

that winks out of existence

in a trillion trillionth
of a second

It's evidence of a force
that fills all of space,

completely invisible,
and yet without it,

life, earth, the universe
we know could not exist

Finding this elusive particle
marks the end of a quest

that required constructing the
largest, most complex machine

the world has ever seen

A quest that consumed nearly
half a century,

billions of dollars,

and asked thousands of
scientists across the globe

to invest years,
even decades of their careers

with no guarantee of success

I got a job to do this in 1993

It's eleventh year now

About ten years, me

Yeah, and about
five years for me

20 years, something like that

Since 1994, I guess

It's practically my whole
professional life

that's led to this point

The discovery has been hailed

as one of the greatest
scientific victories of all time

and has already won
the Nobel Prize

It's an enormous triumph

This was my generation's
Manhattan Project,

and I wanted to be on the inside
looking out

It's been extremely exciting

But what is
this mysterious quarry?

What does it actually do?

And why was finding it
so important?

That story begins at the
very beginning of time,

when the universe came into
being in a massive explosion

called the Big Bang

So here we have the Big Bang

Billions of years ago

Deserves a little bit
of color, I think

And then the timeline
of the universe

This is where we are

This now the age
of the universe,

like 13 7 billion years
after the Big Bang

And so working backwards,
we had the dinosaurs

So here's a dinosaur

Then life itself, first DNA was
about four billion years ago

Before DNA, there was the earth

Before that, the first stars

Before them, just atoms

While atoms were once thought
to consist

of just three basic particles...

Neutrons, protons
and electrons...

Physicists now know
some of these are made

of even more fundamental stuff...

The basic building blocks
of our universe

The big question then is

where did those building blocks
come from?

The answer to all that lies
in the first second

In the first instant
of existence,

when the universe was
unimaginably hot,

the cosmos was filled with
identical bundles of energy

moving at the speed of light,

all indistinguishable
from one another

But then something changed

Distinct types
of particles emerged

with different properties,
like electric charge

and mass, what we
experience as weight

Now we live in a universe
full of tangible stuff

And while that monumental shift
from nothing to something

must have happened
almost immediately,

how it happened

was one of the biggest
unanswered questions in physics

The mysteries of existence lie
within this second

Certainly we understand
the science,

we understand the physics

Work backwards into this second,

but at some point we just
run out of knowledge

And the Large Hadron Collider
is allowing us to see

right back to ten to the minus
12 seconds after the Big Bang

Beyond that, here be dragons
or dinosaurs

The Large Hadron Collider is
a massive particle accelerator,

the largest machine
in the world,

designed to simulate
the universe as it was

a trillionth of a second
after the Big Bang

To solve the mystery of mass,
it smashes protons together

at energy so high

that it is capable of testing
an idea first suggested in 1964

by several scientists
around the world,

including a young theoretical
physicist named Peter Higgs

His mathematics suggested that
right after the Big Bang,

an invisible energy field was
somehow switched on

and now fills
the entire universe

Just the way that a magnetic
field affects some materials

but not others, he suggested
that this new field

selectively affects
some fundamental particles,

causing some of them
to take on mass

Very massive particles

like the quarks that make up
protons and neutrons

interact strongly
with this field

Electrons, which form the
outer shells of atoms,

interact less strongly
and are very lightweight

And still others, like photons,
particles of light,

have no mass, because they don't
interact with the field at all

The theory implied that a
universe without a Higgs field

might not be
a very friendly place

And that got people's attention

If there were no Higgs

elementary particles
wouldn't have mass

If electrons didn't have mass,

that means they would move
at the speed of light

And if electrons moved
at the speed of light,

electrons do not settle down
into atoms

And if electrons do not settle
down into atoms,

there are no atoms,
there are no molecules,

there's no chemistry,
there's no life


It would look nothing
like what we see today

We wouldn't be here,

and there would be no physicists
to ask these questions

When Higgs submitted his theory
to a journal,

the editors based at CERN
rejected it

My reaction was

that they clearly hadn't
understood what I was saying

Undeterred, he revised
the paper,

adding a paragraph saying,
in effect,

that if the field exists,
we should find evidence of it

in the form of a particle that
would turn up in an accelerator

In other words, if you smash
particles together

energetically, you'll make
a ripple in the field

And if you apply enough energy,

you just might be able to detect
it in the form of a particle

The second time around,

an American journal published
the paper

and Peter Higgs got
a lot of credit

But in reality, the idea was
cooked up independently

by a bunch of scientists:

Philip Anderson, Robert Brout,
François Englert,

Gerry Guralnik, Carl R Hagen,

Peter Higgs, Tom Kibble,
Gerard 't Hooft

Some have suggested that it
really should be called this

But since that's impossible
to pronounce,

it's simply called
the Higgs field

Gradually, the theory
gained support,

but without the evidence
of a particle,

now called the Higgs boson,
it remained unproven

To be honest, we weren't sure
that the Higgs existed

Mr Higgs and his collaborators
were saying that there was

an invisible energy field
everywhere in the universe

So the "invisible"
sounds a little odd,

and the "everywhere in
the universe" also sounds

kind of far-fetched

So that was a lot
for people to swallow

There were many people
who thought

this can't be the answer

I've heard people describe it
as a trick,

a mathematical trick to make
the equations work out

Finding something
that's all around us

is surprisingly tricky

Because the Higgs boson
doesn't actually exist

At least not in any form
that we can easily detect

So in 1998, scientists from
around the world came together

at CERN, the Center for European
Nuclear Research,

located on the border of France
and Switzerland,

to build a particle accelerator
that would have enough power

to create such a profound
disturbance in the Higgs field

that the predicted Higgs bosons
would pop into existence

and present themselves

But easier said than done

In order to find this particle,

we had to build this complex,
cutting-edge accelerator

The work is the work of
thousands of people

20 years of effort went
into building these detectors

20 years of efforts of
the international community

From dozens of nations,

with the U S contributing
$500 million

It took $10 billion
and ten years

to complete
the Large Hadron Collider,

a massive masterpiece
of engineering,

to find one of the tiniest
pieces of the cosmos

It's a very cool
and expensive eye

that can look at very,
very small distances

like about a billionth
of a billionth of a meter

We designed this machine

so that wherever the Higgs boson
would be,

we would be able to find it

Flushing the Higgs out of hiding

begins in a modest little red
bottle full of hydrogen atoms,

the smallest and most abundant
element in the universe

All the protons that we use
at CERN are taken

from a bottle that size

They start their journey here
and they continue

down this orange line, and that
is the linear accelerator

Trillions of hydrogen atoms
stripped of their electrons

are injected into the collider

Every 12 seconds

ten to the power 14 protons
are being accelerated

down that line

The protons accelerate around
larger and larger loops

until they are finally directed
into the main ring

To keep the increasingly
energetic particles confined,

the LHC relies on immensely
powerful magnetic fields

generated by 1,232 primary
superconducting magnets,

cooled to just a few degrees
above absolute zero

by 120 tons of liquid helium

After about 20 minutes
of acceleration,

each bunch of protons is moving
at nearly the speed of light,

with as much energy
as an onrushing locomotive

Finally the protons are
carefully steered

into violent head-on collisions

converting the huge energy
into showers of exotic,

energetic particles, scattering
in all directions,

many decaying into showers
of even more particles,

setting the stage for the hard
work of detecting the Higgs

Trying to figure out
what happens

in the collision of two protons
at very high energy

is like analyzing what happens

in the high-speed collision
of two garbage trucks

Garbage is spread
all over everything,

and most of it is garbage in the
sense that it's not interesting

It's old stuff
that we already knew about

And in all this garbage
that's spraying out

in all directions
on the highway,

you have to find
the golden needle,

the rare artifact that you're
looking for, the Higgs boson,

something entirely new

To the scientists at CERN,

a collection of physicists
from all over the world,

the stuff produced in these
powerful collisions

is anything but garbage

Each particle has a
well-understood identity,

described with great precision

in one of the most accurate
theories ever devised

to explain the workings
of the universe

It's called the Standard Model,

and one of its key contributors
is Frank Wilczek

Hi, welcome

Come on in

A lot of what I do
is really just play

I mean, I play
with the equations and ideas

All that playing won Frank
a Nobel Prize

for his contribution
to the Standard Model

Well, what have we got here?

It looks like an instrument
of torture for the mind

The Standard Model is
essentially an understanding

of how all the known pieces
of the universe fit together,

except for the mechanism
of gravity,

creating a mind-boggling

This is going to be a hell
of a puzzle

to figure out

All right, now,
a promising start

We think the Standard Model
contains all you need

in principle to describe
how molecules behave,

all of chemistry, how stars
work, all of astrophysics...

Not only how things behave,
but what can exist

These are the rules of the game

The ingredients of the Standard
Model are of three basic sorts

There's what you might
broadly call matter

That's sort of lumps of stuff

that have a certain degree
of permanence

And these are,
on the one hand, quarks

They include the building blocks
of protons and neutrons

and atomic nuclei

And leptons

Most prominent lepton
in everyday life

is certainly the electron

So those are matter particles

On the other side, we have what
you might call force particles

or force mediators

Called "bosons,"

some of these particles are
more like lumps of energy

They transmit the forces

that bring the matter
particles to life

They include the photon,

which carries
the electromagnetic force;

the gluons that carry
the strong force

which holds protons
and neutrons together;

and the W and Z bosons
that are responsible

for the weak force
governing radioactivity

With just this small list
of ingredients,

the Standard Model explains
the physical properties

of the elementary building
blocks of nature

The Standard Model is just a
handful of particles and forces,

and it explains every experiment
ever done

by every human being
in the history of science

So it's quite impressive
in what it's managed to do

It explains how stars burn

It explains
how radioactivity occurs

It explains how chemistry works

It explains how light works

It's an amazing theory

The first particles were
discovered in experiments

and became the foundation
for the Standard Model

But then the theorists took over

and all the particles discovered
in the last 40 years

were first predicted
by the mathematics

of the Standard Model
and then found experimentally

The Higgs boson, a force
particle, was the last

and most challenging piece
of the puzzle

That's why finding it was such
an obsession among theorists

and experimentalists alike

In September 2008,
with much fanfare

the giant accelerator
was switched on

The LHC was ready to go to work

It was an exciting time,
full of high expectations

Designing and building
this machine,

it's just incredible to see it
come to life

But then, just nine days
after start-up

disaster struck

It was 11:00 in the morning,

and I got a call to come over,
something looks serious

And when I got over there,
I had never seen such carnage

A short circuit burned a hole

in a giant container of liquid
helium used to cool the magnets

Six tons of helium was released
into the tunnel

and more than 50 of the giant
magnets were fried

The $10 billion LHC
was dead in the water

Undaunted, engineers worked
to repair the machine

and physicists continued to
refine the computer programs

that would analyze
the vast amount of data

that the LHC would produce

once it was running
at full power

Three, two, one

By late 2009, after 14 months of
repair work and reengineering,

the LHC was more robust
than ever

and finally ready to begin
the hunt in earnest

Now, protons are whizzing
both ways around the ring

at nearly the speed of light

At the center of the two Higgs
detectors, the beams cross

inside ATLAS, a massive machine
the size of a cathedral

and also within its smaller
cousin, CMS

Even though the beams are
microscopically small,

the vast majority of particles
contained in them

whiz past each other
without incident

When you collide 100 billion
protons and 100 billion protons,

most of the protons are
just seeing each other

and going, "Hello," and going on

But about 800 million times
every second,

pairs of protons meet head-on

What's called a "hard collision"

When the proton breaks up
so it's no longer a proton,

that's an interesting collision

And that happens
only about 20 times

out of all these billions
of protons crossing

In each of these powerful

dozens of new particles
flash into existence

and spray outward, their unique
signatures tracked

by the huge detectors,

capturing the action
40 million times a second

Incredibly fast, but still not
able to spot the Higgs directly

The Higgs is actually kind of
a difficult particle to find

It's kind of subtle
in how you look for it

As soon as you create it,
it decays very, very quickly

The lifetime of a Higgs
is about one zeptosecond,

which is like
ten to the minus 21 seconds

So, in fact,
you'll never even see it

in a particle accelerator

It doesn't move that far,

enough for you to see any track
left behind

And so, the only way to detect
the Higgs would be by spotting

the more familiar particles

that the quickly vanishing Higgs
decays into

The math predicted

about a dozen different possible
decay modes, as they're called

But the relative likelihood
of any of them

depended on the mass
of the Higgs

which was a total mystery

It must have seemed like
a cosmic joke on the theorists

The irony, if you like, is that

although the Higgs field that's
related to the Higgs boson

gives other particles mass,

the one property of the Higgs
boson that was not predicted

by Professor Higgs
and his colleagues

was the mass
of the Higgs boson itself

So its mass could have
been anything

from very, very light by our
standards to very, very heavy

Since the Higgs could
theoretically decay

in so many different ways,

the Higgs hunters had
to be willing to sift

through all
of the collision debris,

looking for slight increases

in the number
of detectable particles,

with very specific

into which the Higgs could
possibly decay

So it's not like looking
for a needle in a haystack,

when at least you know
that you found a needle

It's like looking for hay
in a haystack

You're looking for a little bit
more hay with certain properties

than certain other properties

That daunting challenge meant

building enormously
complicated detectors

to track and count
every bit of debris

coming out of those collisions

And then we have to somehow,

with all of the particles
that come out of this event,

we have to reconstruct them and
find if there are new particles

that are happening

The mathematics predicts that
the Higgs should often decay

into particles that are also
maddeningly hard to detect...

Like quarks, the particles that
make up protons and neutrons

in the nuclei of atoms

They looked in every
possible way they can look

In the end,

they looked for the Higgs boson
decaying into photons

Out of every thousand
Higgs bosons created,

a few should decay in a way that
produces a pair of photons...

Light particles

which can be measured very
precisely in the detectors

By knowing the energy and angle
between pairs of photons,

scientists can tell if they
were likely produced by a Higgs

And by looking for unexpectedly
high concentrations

of certain photons
over billions of collisions,

scientists hoped to zero in on
the Higgs and, as a consequence,

pinpoint its exact mass...

The one missing value
in the theory

It proved to be a statistical
sifting process

of dizzying complexity

Luckily, they had a head start

Years of experiments in other
colliders had ruled out

many possible masses
for the Higgs,

measured in units called
gigaelectronvolts, or GEV

So on this line of what the mass
of the Higgs might be,

we can draw on what previous
experiments have

have tried and where
they've been able

to exclude it from being

A less powerful accelerator,
the LEP Collider at CERN,

a predecessor of the LHC,

had already ruled out the Higgs
being at the bottom end

of potential masses

In fact they were able to say
that the mass of the Higgs

is, with 95% confidence,
114 GEV or more

So after LEP, the next major
milestone in the

in the Higgs search was limits
set by another collider

in the US, the Tevatron

The Tevatron was able to exclude

a range here around 160 GEV here

In 2011, CERN moved that upper
boundary still lower

The LHC has been able to rule
out a big region

from 145, quite far up

But this last remaining
energy range

was also the trickiest to search

It's the area in which the
unique signature of the Higgs

would be mostly deeply buried
under the background noise

of other particles
created in the collider

If I was to bet,

I would probably
put it at 130 GEV

Probably somewhere around
120 GEV

Somewhere between 120
and 130 GEV

114 GEV because it's the most
difficult place to look

and we haven't found it yet

Ah, that's a good question,

because you know you are
assuming that the Higgs

actually exists, which I'm-I'm
starting to believe

it probably does not exist

As data piled up at the LHC,

scientists narrowed the range
even further

It seemed that they were either
about to close in

on the Higgs particle or prove
that it didn't exist at all

People were beginning to worry
a little bit

that we hadn't found
the Higgs yet

and maybe weren't going
to find it

And that would've been
a complete shock

because we know that something
is doing the job of the Higgs

You start to get a little

because either it's there

or there isn't a Higgs boson
at all

By the end of 2011, the window
narrowed even further

The LHC, with the new data
from the whole of 2011,

is able to expand the area that
it can exclude the Higgs from

The new lower limit had risen
to 115 GEV,

and the new upper limit dropped
to 127 GEV

And within that range,

interesting things were showing
up in the data

So the really exciting thing

was that the reason the LHC
experiments weren't able

to exclude anything inside
this remaining window

is that in fact they see
an excess of events,

the early signs of the
Higgs boson, if it's there

An excess of events means
that the LHC was producing

more particles of interest...
In particular, pairs of photons

So, what you're looking for is
called a bump

because at that
particular energy,

you should see a lot more decays

if there is a Higgs boson

So if you see a bump, that's a
clue that something's going on

Those excess photon pairs were
showing up in not just one

but in both detectors, and at
practically the same mass

CMS was seeing a spike
in the number of photons

which could be the signal of a
Higgs with a mass of 124 GEV

And ATLAS was seeing a
similar spike near 125

Now with the hunt finally
closing in,

the LHC continued smashing

sorting through the debris
and piling up the data

for another six months

We saw a signal growing, growing
every week, every day

Until at last, on July 4, 2012,
the heads of ATLAS and CMS,

Fabiola Gianotti and
Joe Incandela, called a meeting

Two presentations from the two
experiments, ATLAS and CMS

There to hear the news
firsthand: Peter Higgs himself

It was standing room only

Good afternoon,
everybody in Melbourne

But it was also beamed live
around the world

So, of course,

everyone's heard lots of rumors
at this point,

within the collaborations

But there are these two

the CMS collaboration and
the ATLAS collaboration

And we aren't supposed to know
what they have, and I didn't

You know, you'd heard stories,
but I hadn't seen their data

So that's kind of exciting

So, today is a special day on a
search for a certain particle

But no one was quite prepared

for the short, definitive
announcement that was to come

And I ask Joe Incandela from CMS
to take the floor

This was about to become one of
the defining moments

in the history of physics
and science

And the energy was so incredible

It was like a big party

People were really excited

And it was just then I think
I started to really appreciate

where we were and that this was
a major discovery

This slide shows you one event
taken just a few weeks ago

I put the slide up and before
I could say anything,

there was a gasp
across the whole audience

Now, a major result like this

from one experiment
could still be wrong

Now we go immediately to ATLAS

Fabiola Gianotti, please

Thank you

But Fabiola brought the same
confidence for her results

You can already see here
the compatibility between

what we observed: one big spike,
here in this region here

If you look at these plots
that were shown,

first thing you want to see is

did CMS and ATLAS find the bump
in the same place?

And in fact they had

An excess at a mass of 126 5 GEV

Both teams had found an excess
of photons

pointing to the same mass

And that was pretty convincing

So you're going,
"Wow," like, "we rock"

As a layman I would now say
I think we have it

You agree?

The LHC had found
the Higgs particle

We have observed a new particle
consistent with a Higgs boson

It's like running a marathon

Suddenly you realize you crossed
the finish line

Maybe one more round of applause
to all the guys

who took part in the project
for more than 25 years

It comes as a big surprise
to me, I must say

I went into that seminar
expecting good results

But I was gobsmacked,
as they say

The hunt that spanned
half a century was over

The Higgs boson hid for 50 years

But, you know, like they said
with the Canadian Mounties,

"They'll get their man"

It could run,
but it couldn't hide forever

It appeared Higgs and his
colleagues had been right

The mystery of how particles
gain mass had been solved

The last piece of the Standard
Model had been found

For me it's really
an incredible thing

that it's happened
in my lifetime

I had the pleasure
to meet Peter Higgs

at the end of the seminar
and exchange a hug

He told me,

"Congratulations to you
and your experiment

for this incredible achievement"

And of course, I replied,
"Congratulations to you!

You are the first person to be

I think it's not appropriate
for me to answer

any detailed questions
at this stage

This is an occasion celebrating
an experimental achievement

and I simply congratulate
the people involved

Ironically, the achievement took
place at the very same institute

where nearly 50 years earlier,

an editor had rejected Higgs'
initial paper

The Royal Swedish Academy
of Sciences

In a fitting end to the saga,

Peter Higgs and Belgian
physicist François Englert,

who had independently come up
with the idea

for the Higgs field,
won the 2013 Nobel Prize

Englert's colleague,
Robert Brout,

certainly would have been
honored as well

had he lived to see the day

So why is all this important?

Why does proving the existence
of the Higgs field matter?

Building an enormous Big Bang
machine to recreate conditions

in the universe near
the beginning of time

and completing
the Standard Model

is a tremendous scientific

Finding the Higgs sheds light
on all of particle physics

and cosmology

It's all connected

All our models of how the
universe began, how it expanded,

everything, is, you know,
affected by the Higgs field

and by how we understand
the universe

Perhaps discovering the Higgs
boson and the field it proves

will open new doors

The discovery of the Higgs
is just the first step

In science you make
a step forward...

You answer a question, but then
other questions open up

into even greater mysteries
that still remain

beyond the Standard Model

The Standard Model can't be
the final thing

There is something beyond the
Standard Model; we know that

Hopefully the Higgs can give us
some guidance in that direction

Yes, we do know
the Standard Model works

It works incredibly well

But we know it's not
the whole story

And any time in the history
of physics

where people thought they had
the whole story they were wrong

And so we're looking for what
is the next piece,

not just in terms
of one particle

but in terms of forces, in terms
of understanding nature

The number of mysteries in
the Standard Model is huge,

which is fine because,
as a scientist,

I'm drawn to mysteries

One mystery that the
Standard Model can't answer

is perhaps the most fundamental
of them all

Why isn't our universe empty?

Because according
to the mathematics

behind the Standard Model,
it should be

Science has given us a set of
laws that describe the world

so accurately that we can
predict the motion of a coin

tossed in the air because we
understand the law of gravity

We understand electromagnetism
so well

that we can use our GPS
satellites to locate your car

to within a few inches

And we understand
the nuclear force so well

that we can predict the future
evolution of the sun itself

Those mathematical equations
that work so well

to describe the laws
of the physical world

are bound together by something
that we see around us every day

Something that characterizes
our faces

and the natural world

even the tiniest structures
like viruses and our DNA...


In the Standard Model,
symmetry rules

The laws are dictated, really,
in their form

by requiring tremendous amounts
of symmetry

That's how we found them

The equations of the Standard
Model seem to predict a universe

in perfect balance, formless
and without structure

as it was at the very beginning

And if it had remained that way,
nothing would exist

If the laws of science are
framed in their most perfect,

most symmetrical form,
then life cannot exist at all

There'd be no mountains, rivers,

no DNA, no people, nothing

A universe created along
absolutely symmetric principles

would be in perfect balance

The Higgs field is the first
clue to what broke the symmetry

of that completely uniform
early universe

The state of perfect symmetry
is very similar

to the state of perfect balance

Think of a spinning top

It exists in a state of
perfect rotational symmetry

No matter how you rotate,
everything looks the same

Even more so than the symmetry
of a spinning top,

at this instant of creation,

every place in the universe
would have been symmetrical,

identical to every other place

But perfection isn't stable

The slightest imperfection,
the slightest little defect

will cause it to vibrate,

and fall to a lower energy state

Symmetry has been broken

Within a fraction of a second
of the Big Bang,

physicists believe the absolute
symmetry of the universe

was shattered
by a tiny fluctuation

The Higgs field appeared
in all of space

The forces split apart

The particles of the Standard
Model became distinct

Structure emerged

This fall from perfection
was what allowed us

to come into being

Everything we see around us
is nothing but fragments

of this original perfection

Whenever you see a beautiful
snowflake, a beautiful crystal,

or even the symmetry of stars in
the universe, that's a fragment

That's a piece of
the original symmetry

at the beginning of time

Finding and studying the Higgs
is a vital first step

in the quest to understand
that early state

when the particles that make up
what we can perceive

came into being, as well
as a much greater quantity

of mysterious stuff
that we know is out there

but that we can't directly
detect, called dark matter

What are these missing pieces?

When James Gates came
to study at MIT,

he was determined to unlock the
secrets of the early universe

and understand what happened to
the unity that was once there

The universe and we are
intricately tied together

This idea of unity
turns out to be

one of the most powerful
driving themes in physics

and it keeps getting us to look

for deeper and deeper

So ultimately, perhaps, we exist

because the universe
had no other choice

He looked at the Standard Model,

the matter particles and the
bosons, the force particles,

that hold everything together

He wondered if these two groups
of particles

that seem so different
could be related

in some profound and hidden way

This question...

Why is there a fundamental
asymmetry of forces and matter...

Led him to a powerful
mathematical theory

called supersymmetry

It was the asking
of this "what if?" question

that drove the construction
of supersymmetry,

which had an incredible
resonance for me

when I was a graduate student

I saw one more beautiful balance
that we could put in nature

One of the pioneers
of supersymmetry,

Jim Gates saw in the mathematics
a possible hidden world

of new particles
no one had suspected

Mathematics leads us to find
things we didn't know

were there before

Supersymmetry is an example
of that

We know about ordinary matter

The mass leads you on

to discover supermatter
and superenergy

The theory gives every matter
particle a force partner

and every force particle
a matter partner

These heavier supersymmetric
twins are labeled sparticles

So once you believe this math

that says there's
more to existence,

then you have to wonder what
these other things are

You have to name them, at a very

you know, at the very first step

So in nature there is a thing
called the electron

The math says it has
a superpartner

called the selectron

Muon, it'd have to be a smuon;

photon, there'd have to be a

quark, there'd have to be

Z particle, there'd have
to be zino;

the W particle,
there'd have to be a wino

And that's how supersymmetry

According to supersymmetry,

matter and forces aren't
so distinct after all

There's a grand symmetry
between them

but we can currently see only
one partner from each pair

However strange it seems,

this theory has gained
widespread support

from theoretical physicists

Not just for the beauty
of its equations

but for what it might
help explain

When supersymmetry began
as a topic of discussion,

no one realized what it can do

It turns out that studying
the mathematics,

we get a firm foundation
for the existence of everything

Supersymmetry could shed light
on dark matter...

The missing particles
that aren't included

in the Standard Model...
And even help to explain

how symmetry was broken
in the first place

I very much want supersymmetry

because it's a beautiful thing
by any standard

and would take our understanding
of nature to a new level

So I want that

Finding the Higgs pushed
the LHC to the limit

of what it could do

So, a few months after
the Higgs announcement

the scientists at CERN shut down
the giant collider

and began a planned
two-year upgrade

As it begins its second act,

it will smash protons
even more energetically

So when the LHC turns back on
in 2015,

we will be at twice the energy
we were before

The increased power will help
physicists to study the Higgs

with more precision, but the
real hope is that they will find

something entirely new

Every single experimentalist
is only thinking this:

Is there a massive particle we
can now make with this energy,

with these energetic protons,
that we haven't seen before?

For the theorists, too,

it is an exciting and
nerve-wracking time

If we find supersymmetry in
experiments, for me personally

it will mean that I have not
wasted my entire research career

because this is the one question
as a young scientist

I decided had my name on it
to study

I'm starting to get nervous

You know

So there were a lot of people
who predicted

that supersymmetry was just
around the corner

or something else, that as soon
as LHC turned on

they'd see spectacular effects
on the one hand,

or that the Higgs particle would
be heavy on the other hand

Those are all wrong

Now it's make or break time

For the thousands of scientists
who have come together

in this great quest,

pushing the frontiers
of knowledge

has been a wild
rollercoaster ride

And with the Large Hadron

Three, two, one


The fun has only just begun