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HOW STUFF WORKS / INDUSTRY

'God Particle' Breakthrough

By Computer Daily News | Thursday | 05/07/2012

It's a boson - but is it a Higgs? Physicists go wild over find

Theoretical physicists are usually pretty quiet types, but the auditorium at the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) in Melbourne exploded into uproar, with excited yells, shrieks, hoots and wild applause yesterday as scientists associated with the CERN nuclear research facility made it plain they have almost certainly found the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle" that is thought to give mass to everything in the universe.

Two separate teams - dubbed Atlas and CMS - presented results to the ICHEP conference, both concluding that they had indeed observed a new boson, using experiments with CERN's Large Hadron Collider.

Whether it actually is the long-sought after Higgs - which exists for only a billion billion billionths of a second, and therefore only traces can be witnessed - has yet to be finally determined, but both teams say what they have seen certainly fits the pattern.

The results were also presented simultaneously to a similar gathering at CERN HQ in Geneva - and received a similar wild reception. Attendees at CERN included 83-year-old Peter Higgs, pictured, who with five others first suggested the existence of the boson almost 50 years ago.

"I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall ask my family to put some champagne in the fridge," he said.

"We have observed a new boson," Joe Incandela, leader of the CMS experiment, said at a press conference in Geneva, explaining that the particle's mass of 126 GeV (gigaelectron volts) was spot-on consistent with that of the predicted Higgs boson.

In Melbourne, Prof. Geoff Taylor, who heads an Australian team participating in Atlas, described the results as "fantastic" and likened the discovery to some of the greatest breakthroughs in science, like the discovery of electro-magnetism.

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