10 years Higgs: interview with Frank Filthaut

‘It was a historic moment’

Frank Filthaut, programme leader ATLAS at Nikhef, senior lecturer at Radboud University Nijmegen

July 4, 2012 was the first day of a long planned summer vacation. I was on a boat with my family from Calais to Dover, so I missed the big moment. Of course I was not very happy about that, and the first vacation snapshots show that.

The vacation was still enjoyable though, although even on the way I wrote an article about the Higgs particle for the Dutch Journal of Physics. Mainly out of fear, by the way, that others might not properly explain our analysis of Higgs physics. I myself had led the Higgs hunt at Nikhef from 2008 until that moment, with the ATLAS detector. That was through the decay channels to W and to Z particles, and I myself worked particularly on the decay channel with W particles.

On June 27, a week before the announcement, we got to see its data after extensive checks and saw the Higgs signal that same evening. Our result unfortunately did not make it into Fabiola Gianotti’s presentation for ATLAS. The overall result of which we already knew in advance: Higgs with five sigma. I myself had mixed feelings about that outcome. Of course we were proud that we had contributed to this historical moment in physics. But secretly I had hoped that we would not have found anything. That would have been proof in itself that there had to be more physics than the Standard Model.

At the same time, of course, the Higgs particle is exactly as important as we said it was ten years ago. No one doubts anymore that the Higgs field gives mass to other particles. Although in the “details” there are still legions of interesting things to study. So it mainly comes down to precision physics. I’m not one for hypothetical questions, but my question to the Higgs particle would be: at what mass do we find your family? The least I’m really hoping for is a serious indication that the Higgs sector is different from what the Standard Model predicts.’

This interview was originally published in Nikhef magazine DIMENSIES #7

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