After decades of careful experiment, physicists say they have found the “strongest indication to date” to prove the existence of the Higgs boson — a subatomic particle so important to the understanding of space, time and matter that the physicist Leon Lederman nicknamed it “the God particle.”
The announcement today, based on experiments at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab near Chicago and other institutions, is not the final word, but it’s very close. And it comes just before a major meeting this week in Australia, where more findings will be announced from the giant underground particle accelerator at CERN, the great physics lab in the Alps on the French-Swiss border.
Rob Roser, a Fermilab physicist, said he expected the CERN scientists to offer more evidence of the Higgs particle, though they will also be cautious. “The Higgs particle, if it’s real, will show itself in different ways. We need for all of them to be consistent before we can say for sure we’ve seen it.”
The particle was first proposed in the 1960s by the English physicist Peter Higgs. The international effort to find it has taken decades, using tremendous amounts of energy to crash subatomic particles into each other in giant underground tracks, where they are steered by magnetic fields. Several different experiments have been done by independent teams to ensure accuracy.
Physicists say the Higgs boson would help explain why we, and the rest of the universe, exist. It would explain why the matter created in the Big Bang has mass, and is able to coalesce. Without it, as CERN explained in a background paper, “the universe would be a very different place…. no ordinary matter as we know it, no chemistry, no biology, and no people.”
Do you think the Higgs boson really exists? What is the significance of its discovery to our world today?
Image: Diva Whispers