Scientists claim to have found 'God particle'
Two teams of scientists claim to have discovered a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson particle, after a 45-year hunt to explain how matter attains its mass.
The claims were made during a seminar held at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday at which scientists presented the latest preliminary results from two experiments involved in the search for the long sought Higgs particle. Both experiments - namely the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) and the ATLAS projects, two general purpose detectors - said they had observed a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV. These findings match the elusive Higgs boson.
Often referred to as the 'God particle', the Higgs boson first appeared in a theory detailed in 1964 by a team of physicists led by Peter Higgs at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Finding the particle proves that there is an energy field that fills the vacuum of the observable universe. It plays the crucial role of giving mass to certain subatomic particles that are the building blocks of matter. The Higgs field is thought to have switched on a trillionth of a second after the big bang that blasted the Universe into existence. Without it, or something to do its job, the structure of the Universe would be radically different to what it is today.
'We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV,' said ATLAS Experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti. 'The huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage, but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.'
'The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we're seeing is dramatic,' said CMS project spokesperson Joe Incandela. 'This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it's the heaviest boson ever found. The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks.'
'It is 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.'
The results presented during the meeting in Geneva are labelled as preliminary, insisted the research teams. They are based on data collected in 2011 and 2012, with the 2012 data still under analysis. Publication of the analyses revealed this week should appear around the end of July with a more complete picture of the observations expected later this year. The next step will then be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the Universe.
'We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,' said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. 'The discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particle's properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe.'
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