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Meet the scientist who announced the Higgs boson discovery

Joseph Incandela, who announced the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012, will speak at the Buffalo Museum of Science as part of the UB Physics Department's HiggsFest event.

By CHARLOTTE HSU

Published April 1, 2016

Science lovers in Western New York won’t want to miss this event.

On April 15, the Buffalo Museum of Science will host an evening with physicist Joseph Incandela, who in 2012 served as a spokesperson for one of the most momentous scientific discoveries in modern times: the detection of a new subatomic particle suspected to be the Higgs boson.

The particle helps explain why objects have mass, and without it, life could not exist as we know it.

Scientists had sought the Higgs boson for years, and in 2012, Incandela — who was then heading one of two major experiments involved in the search — announced the particle’s possible discovery on behalf of an international team of thousands of scientists (including several at UB).

The news was covered by nearly every major media outlet in the world, and researchers have since confirmed that the particle discovered was indeed the Higgs.

Incandela’s April visit to Buffalo is organized and sponsored by UB’s Department of Physics, which invited Incandela to speak for the annual Moti Lal Rustgi Memorial Lecture.

This year’s lecture will be held as part of the department’s HiggsFest, a fun event at the museum that begins at 5 p.m. on April 15 and features a variety of science activities and demos geared toward children.

Activities will include a light-mixing demo that shows how different colors of light combine to form white light; interactive computer simulations of Higgs boson-related experiments; and a cloud chamber — a tank filled with vaporized alcohol that acts as a rudimentary particle detector, revealing the presence of charged particles called cosmic rays streaking through the alcohol and the world around us.

Reconstruction of an experimental event that scientists witnessed in the particle accelerator at CERN during the search for the Higgs boson. Image: CMS experiment

Incandela’s talk will begin at 6 p.m. on April 15 and offer an insider’s view of the quest for the Higgs boson.

He will provide insight on the particle’s profound role in defining the structure and evolution of our universe. He will also discuss the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the particle accelerator that researchers used to search for and ultimately detect the elusive particle.

Incandela is a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the university’s interim vice chancellor for research. At the time of the Higgs announcement in 2012, he was serving as head of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment, one of two large, international experiments at CERN that detected the Higgs-like particle.

Visit http://www.physics.buffalo.edu/HiggsFest to RSVP. Admission to the museum’s regular exhibits is not included as part of the free event.

In addition to the UB Department of Physics and Buffalo Museum of Science, the event is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership — a collaboration between UB, Buffalo Public Schools, SUNY Buffalo State and the Buffalo Museum of Science.