4 Jul 2012

Higgs boson: new sub-atomic particle found

Scientists have discovered a subatomic particle that is consistent with the Higgs boson particle that gives matter mass, Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, announces.

Cern logo (Reuters)

Scientists believe they have captured the elusive particle that gives matter mass and holds the physical fabric of the universe together.

The historic announcement came in a progress report from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the £2.6bn “big bang” particle accelerator at the centre of the hunt for the Higgs boson.

Professor John Womersley. chief executive of the Science and technology Facilities Council, told reporters at a briefing in London: “They have discovered a particle consistent with the Higgs boson.

“Discovery is the important word. That is confirmed. It’s a momentous day for science.”

Science Editor Tom Clarke explains, what is the Higgs?

A mathematical concept know as the Higgs field was first theorised in 1964. It was created to explain why matter created in the big bang has mass when the existing mathematical explanations were enable to account for this rather important physical phenomenon. The Higgs field, so the theory goes, permeates every corner of the universe interacting with things that have mass – like tables and chairs and planets – but ignoring things that don’t.

A photon of light for example, which flies through the universe without slowing down because it has no mass – does not interact with the Higgs field. Because of the weirdness of quantum physics, “fields” have particles associated with them that act like a messenger, conveying the influence of the field.
In the case of the Higgs field the Higgs Boson should be released if you hit the field with something fast enough. That is one of the things the Large Hadron Collider is designed to do.

The name of Peter Higgs, a theorist at the University of Edinburgh, has stuck to the particle, but it was in fact theorised around the same time by five other physicists.