Interview with Victor Matveev on 10th anniversary of Higgs boson discovery

Interview, 04 July 2022

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Higgs boson discovery. The Higgs boson plays a key role in the mechanism of mass generation of other elementary particles. Its observation has completed the experimental detection of the spectrum of elementary particles predicted by the Standard Model. Scientists of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research have made a decisive contribution to the discovery of the Higgs boson, and they are rightful co-authors of this discovery. This event was announced on 4 July 2012. Since then, researchers have made considerable progress in understanding of Higgs boson properties. Although, it leaves much to be studied ahead.

Today, a jubilee Symposium dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the particle discovery is taking place at CERN. Participants of the event are considering the latest results of the Higgs boson research and discussing prospects for the future. Chairperson of the CMS RDMS Institutional Board, Scientific Leader of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research RAS Academician Victor Matveev is taking part in it. Before the anniversary event, he commented on why the discovery of this particle was so important for fundamental science.

– Victor Anatolievich, could you please explain why the scientific world perceives the discovery of this elementary particle as a holiday?

– These days, the whole world scientific community, including first of all scientists and specialists from different countries directly participated in experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the discovery of one of the largest, significant scientific discoveries in fundamental physics, i.e. the discovery of the so-called scalar Higgs boson. Perhaps no other discovery in the physical world was awaited with such impatience, I would even say with enthusiasm, as the discovery of the Higgs boson. Furthermore, it took place exactly ten years ago on 4 July, when participants of two large scientific collaborations, the ATLAS and CMS projects, announced the observation of the boson based on the data obtained in the experiments at the LHC.

– Why was this discovery so awaited?

– The Higgs boson discovery has confirmed the existence of a fundamentally new type of a physical field compared, for example, to the electromagnetic field. It bears the name of the theorist who predicted the possibility of its existence and is called the Higgs field. Why is it so remarkable? How does it differ from all known physical fields? In its ground state, i.e. in vacuum, the field has a non-zero value in the whole space. Therefore, filling the space, this field generates the masses of fundamental fermions such as electrons, quarks, etc., which, as we say, are elementary components of all the matter observed around us. Thus, without any exaggeration, the Higgs boson discovery is a triumph of the theoretical thought that has allowed creating the concept of the Standard Model of Elementary Particles on the basis of joint fundamental knowledge obtained over the past century in the study of the microcosm laws. The Standard Model is one of the highest intellectual achievements of humankind. All its predictions, all its discoveries were experimentally confirmed with the highest accuracy. I should note that the anniversary of this epoch-making discovery is an excellent occasion to remind us of that significant contribution to the creation of the Standard Model made by the Dubna theorists such as first of all N. N. Bogoliubov, D. V. Shirkov, and their scientific school. As one of the co-authors of the Standard Model, a Nobel Prize laureate Abdus Salam repeatedly noted, it was Nikolai Nikolaevich Bogoliubov who introduced the concept of spontaneous symmetry breaking into the theory of elementary particles and quantum field theory in his scientific works. In scientific works by N. N. Bogoliubov and his students, a new quantum number of quarks, later called the quark colour, was introduced. It plays a significant role in quantum chromodynamics, which is a gauge theory of strong nuclear interactions. The very creation of the unique CERN collider would have been impossible without the outstanding discovery of the phase stability principle by V. I. Veksler.

Thus, the Higgs boson is the rarest discovery in the modern history of science and this is our achievement, the achievement of JINR and its Member States.

Dubna scientists and specialists in cooperation with their colleagues from Russia and Member States, as well as colleagues and partners from other countries of the world, have made a fundamental contribution to the formation of the Large Hadron Collider scientific complex, development and creation of its unique particle detectors such as the ATLAS, CMS, ALICE ones, development of the physical research programme in fundamental physics.

Moreover, it is important to mention that the Higgs boson discovery itself is such a great result. It is a triumph of international scientific cooperation, its high principles that have demonstrated the efficiency of joint material and intellectual resources, to a large extent of young talented scientists, to gain knowledge about the laws of the Universe in the interests of all countries of the world, of all humankind. So, the principle “Science brings nations together” is working.

(c) CERN

– What were your impressions and emotions when you realised that the discovery had been made?

– No matter how much we believe in the theory, it is a great courage to hope that nature is arranged exactly as theorists think about it. Of course, at first, it was amazement and great joy. We have achieved what we were striving for. “Eureka!” This exclamation, with which scientific discoveries are made, always evokes a very powerful, deep, and emotional feeling. Of course, among other things, we are proud that we have reached such heights in understanding the secrets of the universe and achieved them with success, being part of a large team of scientists from many countries of the world working together, moving forward to the common goal, striving to enrich the knowledge of all humankind with their work.

This was a huge success shared by a large team of bright scientists and specialists from Russia and Member States, participating in the CMS project, which is known worldwide as RDMS. In addition, as the Chairperson of the CMS RDMS Institutional Board, I was very honoured and pleased to work with them and to lead such a talented team together with Head of our part of the project I. A. Golutvin.

– What are the prospects for scientific research opening up in connection with the discovery of the Higgs boson?

– The search for the laws beyond the Standard Model is a huge task. Unfortunately, the further we go, the harder it becomes to find them. At this point, it is necessary to rely on joint efforts of scientists from all over the world to create conditions for international scientific cooperation. In this regard, it should be said that we are all influenced by the decisions discussed and adopted at meetings of the CERN Council. To date, it has made quite a compromise decision struck as a balance between the vision of the world community of physicists, scientists, and the conditions that politicians formulate. This decision itself creates significant difficulties for the preservation and continuation of joint scientific research. However, the results of our research serve not only us in Dubna and our Member States, but they also serve the world.

We should look forward with optimism. We have organized a very large and ambitious programme in a number of scientific areas in Dubna. Of course, if we talk about unsolved tasks or problems of the Standard Model, then this is quantum chromodynamics as integral part of the Standard Model, the theory of strong interactions, which requires further very complex research. In particular, those studies that we are going to conduct at the heavy ion collider NICA. This is actually the task that the world community faces, and we should be proud that we are creating a unique facility that is in demand not only in Dubna or the Member States, but also in the whole world community. At this point, we need to tune in to get the biggest and the most important results that would allow us to consider the form of nuclear matter that appeared in the first moments after the birth of the Universe, the so-called physics of quark-gluon matter. Therefore, it is always necessary to look to the future with optimism while being realistic and do everything possible to sustain creativity and scientific cooperation of scientists around the world.

– What would you like to wish participants of the RDMS association and JINR employees involved in the LHC experiments on this day?

– On behalf of the JINR Directorate, I am pleased to congratulate all participants of the historical experiments at the LHC at CERN, all employees of the Institute’s laboratories, scientists, engineers, and specialists who have somehow contributed to the creation of the unique facilities on the 10th anniversary of one of the key elements of modern elementary particle theory, i.e. the Higgs boson. This discovery marks a transition to a new stage of fundamental research, to the search for what is now called New Physics beyond the Standard Model of elementary particles, astrophysics, and cosmology.

Dear colleagues and friends! On behalf of the Institute’s Directorate and the whole scientific team, I wish you to reach new heights on the way of revealing innermost secrets of nature and understanding of the evolution laws of the Universe, to discover new fundamental elements of the world and new fundamental forces. I wish you every success, dear colleagues! Keep going! Towards new frontiers of big science!