By Hamish Johnston in Geneva
All gone well: André David
By far the best part of being at CERN for yesterday’s Higgs announcement was talking to the physicists who did all the hard work. Needless to say, it was smiles all around. Indeed, it seemed as if it was the euphoria itself – brought on by more than two weeks of intense effort – that allowed the results to be presented yesterday.
For André David (right), who works at CERN on the CMS experiment, family life has been put very much on hold for the last fortnight. “I’ve only seen my two young daughters for a total of 15 minutes over the past 48 hours,” he claims. But David, who is with the Laboratory of Instrumentation and Experimental Particle Physics in Portugal, was not alone – he emphasized that about 400 other people on CMS had been working just as hard to get the results ready. Indeed, many of them were doing exactly the same analysis – only coming together at the end to compare their results.
While this might sound like a wasteful use of human resources, David says that it allows the team to be supremely confident of its results. “That’s why it has gone so well,” he explains.
Still smiling: Josh Bendavid
Josh Bendavid (right) is another CMS physicist who had been burning the midnight oil. “I haven’t slept much,” he admits. “I’m very tired but very happy.” Bendavid is just finishing his PhD thesis at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and quipped that he was going to have to change its title, replacing “search for” with “evidence for”. With the exception of a quick dash back to the US to defend his thesis, he is looking forward to analysing lots more CMS data over the summer.
Everyone I spoke to saw this week’s announcement as just the start of our understanding of the particle they have discovered. And with a bit more hard work, we could have a far better understanding by early next year.
“We’re just on the edge,” says CMS member Yves Sirois of Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. “I won’t be taking a summer holiday.”