Physicists find evidence of new subatomic particle

July 4, 2012 9:08:44 PM PDT
In Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, the announcement came of a discovery that confirms physics as they thought they knew it. Confirmation of the Higgs boson particle had eluded physicists for 40 years.

"For me it is really an incredible thing that has happened in our lifetime," said Peter Higgs, BSc MSc PhD FInstP FRSE FRS.

For Higgs, it was his day, one in which his name became permanently linked with a fundamental discovery in the field physics -- the Higgs boson particle.

When asked if it was easier to draw than to prove, Tim Barklow, Ph.D., said "Absolutely. We've been drawing these things for decades."

Barklow of the Stanford Linear Accelerator is one of many physicists breathing a huge sigh of relief, now that the fabled particle has moved from theory to fact. They had based all of their standard model on its existence.

"As a layman I would say we have it, but as a scientist, I would have to say, 'What do we have?'" said

It finally emerged after physicists in Switzerland and Chicago collided known particles at close to the speed of light. They had never actually seen a Higgs boson, but what else could give mass to an electron. And how does it fit into our universe?

"If the electron did not have mass, we would not form atoms, we would not have stars or we would not have galaxies. It would be a completely different universe," said Barklow.

Not only did they have to catch a Higgs boson, then they had to prove it to a very high standard. Two teams of scientists, and three trillion collisions each, they had a probability of one in 99.99994 or one in a million.

"Historically, studies of fundamental questions of nature have led to developments which helped mankind. But anything involving the Higgs Field would have to wait a hundred years or so," said Barklow.

And then, maybe they will look back on today, a July 4th, when the smallest of atomic level fireworks made the biggest bang yet.


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