‘God particle’ is found, but devil in the details

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SummaryScientists at the world’s biggest atom smasher claimed the discovery of a new subatomic particle today.

JOHN HEILPRIN

To cheers and standing ovation, scientists at the world’s biggest atom smasher claimed the discovery of a new subatomic particle today, calling it “consistent” with the long-sought Higgs boson, popularly known as the ‘God particle’.

“We have now found the missing cornerstone of particle physics,” Rolf Heuer, Director of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), told scientists.

He said the newly discovered subatomic particle was a boson, but stopped just shy of claiming outright that it was the Higgs boson that helps explain what gives all matter in the universe size and shape — an extremely fine distinction.

“As a layman, I think we did it,” he told the elated crowd. “We have a discovery. We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson.”

Until now a theoretical particle, the boson is seen as the key to understanding why matter has mass, which combines with gravity to give an object weight.

Two independent teams at CERN said Wednesday they have both “observed” a new subatomic particle — a boson. Heuer called it “most probably a Higgs boson, but we have to find out what kind of Higgs boson it is”.

The leader of one of the two teams, Joe Incandela, said it was too soon to say definitively whether it is the “standard model” Higgs that Scottish physicist Peter Higgs and others predicted in the 1960s — part of a standard model theory of physics involving an energy field where particles interact with the Higgs boson.

“As a layman, I think we have it,” Heuer said. “But as a scientist, I have to say, ‘What do we have?’... It is consistent with a Higgs boson as is needed for the standard model. We can only call it a Higgs boson... not the Higgs boson.”

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