Scientists at CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research near Geneva, today announced the discovery of a particle thought to be the long-sought Higgs boson. Using the 27-kilometre Large Hadron Collider (LHC), two experiment teams found statistical evidence of the particle with a mass of 125-126 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), or about 130 times the mass of the proton.
By combining data from both experiments and calling on vast computing resources, the teams found evidence for the particle at a statistical significance of 5-sigma. This means there is a less than one in 3.5 million probability that the signals detected are due to random effects.
The Higgs boson is a particle predicted by the ‘Standard Model’ of elementary particles and forces that explain how the Universe works. The Higgs mechanism, the interaction of particles with the Higgs field that pervades all space, is thought to be responsible for the elementary particles having mass. The Higgs boson is a ‘force carrying’ particle created by the Higgs field.
Although this discovery points toward the existence of the Higgs, further work is needed to decide whether it is the exact particle predicted by theory or something more exotic.
Professor Peter Higgs, commenting after the announcement, paid tribute to the scientists and engineers who made the discovery. “It’s an incredible thing that it has happened in my lifetime,” he remarked. It is 45 years since Higgs and other scientists first predicted the existence of the particle.