July 04, 2012
The longest and most expensive hunt in the history of science
Adam Mann in Wired:
Prepare the fireworks: The discovery of the Higgs boson is finally here. Early in the morning on July 4, physicists with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN announced they have found a new particle that behaves similarly to what is expected from the Higgs.
“As a layman, I would now say, I think we have it,” said CERN director-general Rolf-Dieter Heuer. “It’s a historic milestone today. I think we can all be proud, all be happy.” Both CMS and ATLAS, the two main LHC Higgs-hunting experiments, are reporting a boson that has Higgs-like properties at a mass of 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) with a 5-sigma significance, meaning they are 99.999 percent confident of its existence.
Though CERN scientists are making sure to be cautious about over-interpreting their data, the results are impressive and historic, and today will likely go down as the day the Higgs discovery was announced.
First hypothesized in the 1960s, the Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model, the physics framework explaining the interactions of all known subatomic particles and forces. The Higgs has been the subject of an extensive two-decade search, first at the European Large Electron-Positron Collider, then the Tevatron at Fermilab in Illinois, and finally at the LHC. Finding the Higgs within the predicted energy range is a major vindication for the Standard Model.
“I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the fridge,” physicist Peter Higgs, the particle’s namesake who first theorized the existence of the particle, said in a statement.
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