My Part in Finding the 'God Particle', Haaretz, August 2012

I want you to describe for me the moment when you understood you had found what you’ve been looking for over the past three decades.
     It was at the end of last year. I was sitting with two friends who are very senior members of the project: Marumi from Japan, and Alex from Norway. This was in Marumi’s home in Paris, and we were eating, drinking and getting drunk. I will never forget it. Marumi said he had brought terrific grappa from some dump in Italy and that I had to try it. I drank some and said, “Wow, that’s really good.” And then I crashed: I fell asleep for a few hours. And suddenly, in the middle, at 3-4 in the morning, Marumi and Alex shake me and say, “Eilam, do you want to see the Higgs?” I sort of wake up and they show me the image on the screen.
   And what do you see?
It’s not a picture of something, not a creature. It’s a sort of statistical fluctuation for which we had searched and waited, but had never happened.
   Did you faint?
I was in shock; my heart jumped. But what we saw did not have sufficiently high statistical significance. It was what we call three standard deviations.
And you need five.
Five is our golden number. But it was like, Wow, it’s happening but I don’t believe it. And now, in 2012, I am telling you that our discovery is, without a doubt ... if it doesn’t turn out to be the greatest of the 21st century, then one of the greatest. Without a doubt.
  Why? What does it mean?
It closed a crazy intellectual circle of understanding the structure of matter. Think of it as there having been a puzzle for which we had a model that was somewhat imaginary. But the whole model is predicated on this particle. If we had not found it, the whole model would have collapsed and we would have had to find a new model. In that case, we might have been stuck for hundreds of years. Hundreds. We had plenty of circumstantial evidence for its existence, but we didn’t have the Higgs.
   Okay, for you this model was critical but for most of humanity it was less so. What is its direct relation to our lives? Now that you have discovered it, what will happen?
The alternative was not not to discover it, but to discover that it doesn’t exist. We’ve been there before.
   Would that have broken your heart or made you rejoice?
There would be a feeling of: “I tried but it didn’t work; I did what I could, but crap.” And you know what? This is an awful thing to say and people will kill me, but, if I die now, that’s fine, all right. Professionally, I did it. Really.

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