10 years Higgs: interview with Auke-Pieter Colijn

‘Like finding back your lost car keys’

Auke-Pieter Colijn, Nikhef staff, senior lecturer at UvA and professor at UU, then ATLAS group

‘I remember very well that I did miss the element of surprise a bit that day. Of course it was great and cool that we found the particle that the theorists predicted. That was very clever. But it was also a bit like finding back your lost car keys. In that respect, of course, the early years of particle physics were more exciting. That’s when they found things that nobody had predicted. I can sincerely long for that: discovering something that no one expects.

I myself worked in the ATLAS group at the time. With designers and technicians from Nikhef we had built and delivered part of the silicon tracker of the new detector. It worked beautifully and was of course essential for the discovery. A beautiful piece of work.

In photos from July 4, 2012, I am giving interviews in front of a camera at Nikhef. Very young, it seems now. Of the day itself I don’t remember very much. Apparently, I was at Nikhef. We watched the press conferences together I believe. And talked to the press.

The discovery of the Higgs particle didn’t actually feel like an end point, or a starting point. It was like the discovery of the quarks or the vector bosons, another step in discovering the subatomic world. Just work in progress.

On the other hand, the Higgs particle is the particle that completes the Standard Model. That was and is very important. I would now especially like to ask the particle why it has that mass of 125 GeV. That is remarkably light but light enough not to make the universe unstable. Is that a coincidence? Could it not be otherwise?

For myself, the chapter on Higgs is closed. I am currently trying to find particles that could form dark matter in the universe. Whether such WIMPs exist we simply do not know. So it’s a gamble. A bigger gamble than the Higgs particle was.

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