July 4, 2012 · 5 Comments
SYDNEY — In a discovery that throws light on the very fabric of space and time, a new subatomic particle has been found that is very likely the long-sought Higgs boson.
Making one of the most anticipated and exciting announcements in modern science last night, two teams of researchers using the world’s biggest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, announced they had observed the new particle in collisions in the giant instrument.
”We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” the director-general of CERN, Rolf Heuer, said.
”This is the physics version of the discovery of DNA,” Sir Peter Knight, president of the Institute of Physics said.
More studies, however, will be needed to pin down the exact nature of the boson, which is the most massive ever seen, scientists said.
”This is indeed a new particle,” Joe Incandela, spokesman for one of the discovery teams, said. ”The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all our studies and cross-checks.”
The Higgs boson is the last undiscovered particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model of matter, and scientists have been hunting it for almost 50 years.
It is thought to give all other particles their mass, and some have dubbed it the God particle because of its importance, to the annoyance of scientists.
Researchers will now look to see if the new particle has the same properties as the Higgs boson predicted by the standard model, or whether it is an even more exotic particle.
If this is the case, it would be a revolutionary find, possibly leading to the discovery of more new particles and new dimensions in space, Professor Incandela said.
”It could be a gateway to the next phase of exploring the deepest parts of the fabric of the universe, which is pretty profound.”
Researchers using the CMS and ATLAS detectors announced the results of their searches at a joint scientific seminar in Geneva and Melbourne, where the International Conference on High Energy Physics is being held.
The two teams had been blinded to each other’s data, to avoid influencing their independent analyses. They each found a particle consistent with a Higgs boson with a mass of 125-126 gigaelectronvolts – about 130 times the mass of a proton.
”This is a milestone for human understanding of the fundamental laws that govern the universe,” Geoff Taylor, of the University of Melbourne, said.
Peter Higgs, of the University of Edinburgh, who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson in 1964, congratulated the scientists on their achievement.
”I am astounded at the amazing speed with which these results have emerged. I never expected this to happen in my lifetime,” Professor Higgs said.
Anthony Thomas, of the University of Adelaide, said it was a very exciting discovery.
”There’s more work yet to be done to prove that this is the Higgs boson, but it certainly looks like it,” Professor Thomas said.
Australians helped design and build parts of the ATLAS detector and analyse the results.
The Sydney Morning Herald
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