10 years Higgs: interview with Rolf Heuer

‘You felt the eyes of the world on you’

Rolf Heuer, previous director-general of CERN, professor emeritus

‘On July 4, 2012, I was at the center of events, chairing as CERN director-general the seminar where we announced the discovery of the Higgs boson. In a packed auditorium, cameras everywhere. The eyes of the world on us. And rightly so, we had it.

I had no direct role in the discovery of the Higgs particle, other than as director of the laboratory where it all happened. In fact, I more or less called myself a layman among all the experts. The guy who hands over the microphone.

But I was very touched and very excited at the same time, to be present at such an important discovery, based on many years of work by so many people around the world. Not to mention having Peter Higgs and Fran├žois Englert in the audience. As emeritus, I fortunately still remain involved in that wonderful community, through international review committees and advisory boards.

The discovery was a capstone, the Higgs boson being the last particle still missing from the Standard Model. At the same time, the discovery was also the beginning of the search for a new description or understanding of a number of questions that the Standard Model leaves unanswered. The particle is at least as important as we thought at the time. Studying its properties might shed light on the physics beyond the Standard Model. And remember that it is a fundamental scalar boson, an elementary particle with spin zero. The only one we know of in nature. That alone is worth all the studies.’

If I may ask the Higgs particle a question, it is the obvious one: are you lonesome or do you have family, and by the way are you not interested in coupling to dark matter? That last one in particular still keeps me busy. We know that dark matter is there. But what does it consist of? I hope to witness the answer, whatever it is, one day.”

This interview was originally published in Nikhef magazine DIMENSIES #7

Read all interviews