A proton-proton collision event in the CMS experiment producing two high-energy photons (red towers). This is what we would expect to see from the decay of a Higgs boson but it is also consistent with background Standard Model physics processes. (Photo : CERN)
It's official. And "it's a boson." Scientists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that they have indeed discovered the existence of a new subatomic particle - the "God particle" or the Higgs boson. The particle is considered so fundamental that without it, matter could probably not exist.
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The Higgs boson particle is thought to be the particle that gives matter mass, which allows it to exhibit the properties we see around us today.
As a precursor to the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP), scientists from the CMS and ATLAS experiments revealed their findings in a press conference on July 4. The experiments are based on data collected by trillions of collisions recorded from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over the past year.
"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 according to a press release, "but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication."
"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."
A 5 sigma level of certainty is needed to announce a discovery. Three sigma would simply indicate an observation, and that the data could be a result of unintended consequences.
The results are still preliminary, and the team hopes to publish a paper by the end of July once all the data has been conclusively sifted through and sorted.
"It's hard not to get excited by these results," said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci.
"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."