Now that the CERN results have been announced, what do we know?
1. We’ve discovered a particle at a level of about 5 sigma.
2. It has an energy (mass) of about 125 GeV (about 125 times heavier than a proton), which is in the range expected for the Higgs.
3. It appears to be a Higgs-type particle, but more work needs to be done to confirm it is indeed the Higgs.
Now that some of the graphs are being released you can get an idea of how hard it is to pin down the Higgs. Below is a graph plotting the number of events per unit energy as a function of expected mass. The dotted line is what we would expect if there were no Higgs. The small bump at around 126.5 GeV is the signature of the Higgs. That small bump is (part of) what tells us the Higgs exists.
This is what modern “big science” looks like folks, and it’s pretty awesome.
So what now?
Now that we know the mass range of this particle, experiments can be tuned specifically to that range to study the overall properties. Efforts will focus on measuring those properties to confirm it is the Higgs as theory predicts. Work will also focus on determining if there is only one type of Higgs (as the standard model predicts) or if there are multiple types of Higgs (as predicted by things such as string theory).
Note: This was written 4 July 2012 on Google+. I’m posting it here just to have a copy.