March 15, 2013

Higgs hunters bag a boson

The Associated Press

GENEVA - The search is all but over for a subatomic particle that is a crucial building block of the universe.

click image to enlarge

Image shows two high-energy photons’ energy depicted by red towers. Yellow lines are the tracks of other particles produced in the collision. CERN says data from 2012 shows a version of the “God particle.”

The Associated Press/CERN

Physicists announced Thursday that they believe they have discovered the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.

The elusive particle, called a Higgs boson, was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang. The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the "God particle."

Last July, scientists at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced finding a particle they described as Higgs-like, but they stopped short of saying conclusively that it was the same particle or some version of it.

Scientists have now finished going through the entire set of data year and announced the results in a statement and at a physics conference in the Italian Alps.

"To me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is," said Joe Incandela, a physicist who heads one of the two main teams at CERN that each involve about 3,000 scientists.

Its existence helps confirm the theory that objects gain their size and shape when particles interact in an energy field with a key particle, the Higgs boson. The more they attract, the theory goes, the bigger their mass will be.

But, it remains an "open question," CERN said, whether this is the Higgs boson that was expected in the original formulation, or possibly the lightest of several predicted in some theories that go beyond that model.

 

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