追踪希格斯粒子

剑桥——50年前,粒子物理学家们面临着意想不到的挑战。他们最好的数学模型可以解释基本粒子结构及运动的某些自然规律,比方说电磁学和造成放射性衰变的弱核力现象。但只有当原子内部的粒子质量为零时模型才能适用。可如果组成蛋白质、人、行星的物质重量为零,那么这些物质的巨型集合怎么会是现在这样?

有些物理学家想出了一种巧妙的解决办法。他们提出存在一种尚未被发现的粒子,这种粒子最终以英国物理学家彼得·希格斯的名字命名。半个世纪以来,物理学家一直在苦苦寻找这种难以捉摸的“希格斯粒子”。而现在,欧洲粒子物理研究所设在日内瓦附近的粒子物理实验室的研究结果表明,这样的搜索可能很快会圆满结束。

乍看上去,希格斯粒子背后的想法似乎有些古怪。希格斯和他的同事们提出就像数学模型所要求的那样,单个基本粒子的质量的确为零,因此所有粒子通常都会以光速向四周运动。但假设我们周围的一切事物——宇宙中的每一个独立粒子都沉浸在由希格斯粒子组成的不可见的巨型大缸中。每当各种粒子从A点运动到B点,都会不断地与其他粒子相撞,从而导致速度下降。在我们观察时,这些粒子就像是假日期间在拥挤的商店里推推搡搡的购物者。而从它们缓慢的移动中,我们认为它们拥有质量。

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