Scientists at the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research have found a particle consistent with the illusive Higgs Boson, sometimes referred to as “the God Particle”.
That’s big. Finding the Higgs Boson particle is one of the primary reasons the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built in the first place.
If you’re not sure what the hell a Higgs Boson is, Business Day science editor Sarah Wild has a fairly comprehensive explanation that most people should be able to understand:
The Higgs Boson particle is allegedly what gives all matter its mass. According to physicist Peter Higgs, there is a field — called the Higgs field — which permeates the space between every particle in the universe: imagine iron filings in a magnetic field, but on a super-massive, universal scale. But different particles interact differently with the field. An electron, for example, having little interaction with the field, moves very quickly and so has a small mass. A particle that trudges its way through the field moves slowly and thus has a larger mass. In physics, a field is associated with a particle, such as a photon in an electromagnetic field. So to prove the existence of the Higgs field, scientists are searching for the Higgs Boson particle.
Compare that to the language that ATLAS (one of several particle accelerators at the LHC) experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti used when announcing findings:
We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and 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.
CERN used similarly scientific language in announcing the findings on Twitter:
— CERN (@CERN) July 4, 2012
Fortunately Professor Brian Cox, and employee of CERN and BBC documentary presenter, was on hand to provide a simpler explantation:
In simple language, CMS have discovered a new boson, and it behaves like the Standard Model Higgs
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) July 4, 2012
As CERN Director General Rolf Heur noted, getting closer to understanding the Higgs Boson, means we’re just that little bit closer to understanding the nature of the universe:
“We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature. 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.”
Also, what self-respecting geek wouldn’t want the chance to play with the Large Hadron Collider?