Here is a firework-worthy discovery: Scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva have announced that they have found a new subatomic particle consistent with the Higgs boson, sometimes called the “God particle” because, it is believed, finding it would enable us to make sense of the very workings of the universe and gain a new understanding of how our universe began.
The results were announced to an auditorium of cheering scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research with no one less than physicist Peter Higgs of the University of Edinburgh, for whom the boson is named, in the audience. “I think we have it,” said Rolf Heuer, the director general of CERN.
Scientists have not found the Higgs particle but something “Higgs-like.”As the New York Times points out, they still have to deduce if the new particle, one of the heaviest subatomic ones yet,
…fits the simplest description given by the Standard Model, the theory that has ruled physics for the last half-century, or whether it is an impostor, a single particle or even the first of many particles yet to be discovered. The latter possibilities are particularly exciting to physicists since they could point the way to new deeper ideas, beyond the Standard Model, about the nature of reality.
The Standard Model refers to the elementary participles, the very most basic set of ingredients that are necessary to make up our world.
As CERN theorist John Ellis points out, “It’s great to discover a new particle, but you have find out what its properties are.”
While we wait to learn more about the new Higgs-ish particle, a few things we do know:
125.5 billion: How much the new particle weighs in electron volts or gigaelectronvolts (GeV).
45: How many years scientists have been looking for it.
133 times more: About how much heavier the new particle is than the protons at the heart of every atom.
4 percent: How much we can see of all the matter of the universe, the rest being “mysterious dark matter and dark energy” (BBC).
5-sigma (or 5-standard deviation) level of certainty: This is what participles physics accepts as the standard for a discovery with each sigma a measure of “how unlikely it is to get a certain experimental result as a matter of chance rather than due to a real effect” (BBC).
1,000: About how many people stood in line all Tuesday night to gain entrance into the CERN auditorium in Geneva.
6,000: How many physicists (in two team of 3,000 each) operate the giant detectors in the collider.
800 trillion. How many proton-proton collisions physicists have analyzed over the past two years.
6: How many physicists, including Professor Higgs, invented the “notion of the cosmic molasses or Higgs field” in 1964.
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