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CERN Says It May Have Discovered Higgs Boson Particle


A graphic shows a collision at full power is pictured at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experience control room of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Meyrin in March.
Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) say they have discovered a new subatomic particle that could be the Higgs boson, believed to be key to the formation of stars, planets, and life.

The announcement was eagerly anticipated because confirmation of the particle could endorse decades of work in theoretical physics and current understandings of fundamental workings of the universe.

"It's a historic milestone today, but we are only at the beginning," CERN Director-General Rolf-Dieter Heuer told a gathering of scientists at a CERN auditorium in Geneva. "Now, a lot of work is ahead of us. It is a milestone. I think we can all be proud, all be happy, but it is at the beginning, and I think also it has global implications for the future, and it comes at the right time, and I think we can be very, very optimistic."

The boson is known by some as the "God particle" because of its theoretical importance.

Finding the Higgs boson would vindicate a theory of the cosmos called the Standard Model, devised in the 1970s, which identifies the building blocks for matter and the particles that convey fundamental forces.

The new particle was reportedly uncovered by two research teams working independently, with each claiming to have seen evidence of the would-be Higgs boson in experiments inside the Large Hadron Collider at CERN's laboratories in Geneva.

The particle is named after Peter Higgs, the British researcher who in 1964 laid much of the conceptual groundwork for the boson, although other scientists were reaching similar conclusions at the same time.

Higgs was among the prominent physicists invited by CERN to attend the July 4 gathering, and attendee and "Discover Magazine" live-blogger Sean Carroll said Higgs appeared "visibly moved at the final result."

During the CERN announcement, University of Manchester lecturer Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) interpreted the CERN assertion through Twitter, saying, "In simple language, CMS have discovered a new boson, and it behaves like the Standard Model Higgs."

In decades of work, scientists have been unable to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, which is thought essentially to give all matter in the universe mass, size, and shape.

"It was in these kinds of [experiments] that we're looking for one of the rarest particles ever made," CERN spokesman Joe Incandela, who is leading one of the teams searching for the Higgs boson, said in Geneva. "So, keeping that in mind, this is a very, very preliminary result, but we think it is very strong. It's very solid, otherwise we wouldn't present it."

The announcement had been eagerly awaited, with physicists all over the world gathered or tethered electronically to the CERN auditorium.

"Discover Magazine's" Carroll described "a rock-concert vibe in the air" at the venue, adding that "folks have been camping out for a while to get into the auditorium" ahead of the press conference.

Based Reuters, AP, and RFE/RL reporting

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