"God" Particle Discovered?? - Not Quite Yet
The European nuclear research community at CERN, the same people who invented the World Wide Web, has for several years been trying to detect the "ultimate" sub-atomic particle, the one which is responsible for mass, postulated nearly 40 years ago by Peter Higgs and named for him the Higgs Boson.
Mass is an elusive concept but most people think of it as weight, which is how mass interacts with gravity.
Since virtually anything has "mass" (with the possible exception of the neutrino), even light, it is the most fundamental part of nature.
Scientists at CERN built the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's most powerful (and expensive) particle accelerator in an attempt to find evidence of the Higgs Boson which will only be indirect.
cross section diagram of the LHC particle accelerator
New York University physicists today announced that they are seeing some very promising results from their experiments.
Background on the Higgs particle: http://press.web.cern.ch/press/background/
The December 13, 2011 press release from both CERN and NYU state:
"The main conclusion is that the Standard Model Higgs boson, if it exists, is most likely to have a mass constrained to the range 116-130 GeV by the ATLAS experiment, and 115-127 GeV by CMS. Tantalising hints have been seen by both experiments in this mass region, but these are not yet strong enough to claim a discovery."
GeV (Giga-electron-volt) is a measure of the total energy of a particle including the famous energy equation from Einstein, E=mc^2. This summer at an earlier conference the scientists working at CERN announced this limit because they had explored the other energy range and not found what they were looking for. The new estimate is near the limit of the gigantic LHC particle accelerator.
The important part of today's announcement was that "a number of events have recently been recorded in the 126 GeV range."
That probably doesn't seem like much of a confirmation to a lay person, but the scientific community is buzzing with speculation about the data which lies behind this conclusion, including, apparently, images of events which are at this time best explained by the decay of a Higgs Boson.
Such decay events is exactly what researchers have been looking for now that they have narrowed their search to a specific region and are mostly tuning their experiments to that particle energy range.
Contrary to the unfortunate popular designation of "God" particle, the Higgs Boson has nothing to do with theology but it has a great deal to do with the currently accepted nuclear theory known as The Standard Model and its discovery would lead to a new area of research in nuclear physics.
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