CERN claims new particle discovery that could be Higgs boson

4 Jul 2012

Joe Incandela, CMS experiment spokesperson, speaking at CERN this morning. Image by CERN

Our understanding of the universe could be about to change, as the elusive Higgs boson particle – otherwise known as the ‘God particle’ – is within reach, scientists at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, have claimed. This morning they have presented evidence of a new subatomic particle the physicists believe could be consistent with the Higgs boson.

Scientists from the ATLAS and CMS experiments presented their latest preliminary results in the search for the Higgs boson particle this morning at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

According to CERN, both experiments observe a new particle in the mass region of around 125-126 GeV.

“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,” said ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti.

However, he said a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication. CERN expects to publish the complete analysis around the end of July.

“The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found,” said CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela.

“The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks,” he added.

CERN research director Sergio Bertolucci said it was “hard not to get excited by these results”.

“We stated last year that in 2012 we would either find a new Higgs-like particle or exclude the existence of the Standard Model Higgs. With all the necessary caution, it looks to me that we are at a branching point: the observation of this new particle indicates the path for the future towards a more detailed understanding of what we’re seeing in the data,” he said.

So what’s next then?

CERN said the results that have been presented today are based on data collected in 2011 and 2012, with the 2012 data still under analysis.

The organisation said he next step will be to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe.

The physicists will now be analysing the data to determine whether the particle is Higgs boson, the final missing ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics.

The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which we, and every visible thing in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them.

If the particle turns out not to be the Higgs boson, the physicists will be analysing whether it is a more “exotic” particle, CERN confirmed today.

The organisation said all the matter that we can see, however, appears to be no more than about 4pc of the total.

CERN said a more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96pc of the universe that remains obscure.

“We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” said CERN director-general Rolf Heuer. “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.”

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic