Physicists around the world excitedly greeted the news on Wednesday that a new particle has been detected consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, the long sought-after particle believed responsible for all forces in the universe.
Scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, CERN, announced the discovery following experiments last year and this year at the US$10 billion Large Hadron Collider buried under the Swiss-French border.
Researchers had been searching for the hypothetical sub-atomic particle, known as the Higgs boson, because it was needed to complete what is known as the ‘Standard Model of the universe’.
The Higgs has been described as ‘the missing link’ that provides a description of how all particles get their masses and how they interact with the gravitational field.
Although the CERN scientists were unwilling to confirm that they had found the Higgs boson, the new particle is more massive than anything yet seen and this is said to be a key property expected of the boson.
Preliminary results of the collider experiments were presented at a seminar held at CERN as a curtain raiser to this year's major particle physics conference in Melbourne.
“We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of five sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance [of the collider] and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage,” said spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti,
“But a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.”
Despite this, scientists said the latest finding had identified a new particle that must be a boson and was the heaviest ever found.
“It's hard not to get excited by these results,” said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci. “We stated last year that in 2012 we would either find a new Higgs-like particle or exclude the existence of the Standard Model Higgs.
“With all the necessary caution, it looks to me that we are at a branching point: the observation of this new particle indicates the path for the future towards a more detailed understanding of what we're seeing in the data.”
Wednesday’s results are based on data collected last year and this, with the 2012 data still being analysed. Scientists said the next step would be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe.
The Standard Model of the universe describes the fundamental particles from which every visible thing is made and the forces acting between them.
But all the matter that can be seen appears to be no more than about 4% of the total in the universe. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the universe that remains obscure.
* To read more reports about the boson discovery click here.
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