Chasing the Higgs


Vivek Sharma missed his daughter.

A professor at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Sharma had to spend months at a time away from home, coordinating a team of physicists at the Large Hadron Collider, here just outside Geneva. But on April 15, 2011, Meera Sharma’s 7th birthday, he flew to California for some much-needed family time. “We had a fine birthday, a beautiful day,” he recalled.

Then Dr. Sharma was alerted to a blog post. There it was reported that a rival team of physicists had beaten his team to the discovery of the Higgs boson — the long-sought “God particle.”

If his rivals were right, it would mean a cascade of Nobel Prizes flowing in the wrong direction and, even more vexingly, that Dr. Sharma and his colleagues had missed one of nature’s clues and thus one of its greatest prizes; that the dream of any physicist — to know something that nobody else has ever known — was happening to someone else.

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