Higgs boson :-)
Normally you might expect us to cover a big science story whenever a proper peer reviewed paper is published in a major journal. But not always and the search for the Higgs boson is one of those cases.
Back in 2007 I travelled out to CERN in Geneva to look round and meet many of the researchers from the University of Birmingham who are heavily involved in the experiment and analysing the data. This involves smashing together protons at pretty much the speed of light and sifting through what's left. One of the major aims of all this is to look for the Higgs Boson.
Physicists have created a model of how all the particles that make up our universe fit together. And the Higgs boson is an important part of that, it's what we think gives everything in our universe mass.
There are several experiments at CERN to look for the Higgs boson. One of which is called ATLAS.
A couple of months ago a memo began to circulate amongst the 3000 scientists that work on ATLAS. You can read it on this blog. But here's one part;
"This ... implies that the present result is the first definitive observation of physics beyond the standard model. Exciting new physics, including new particles, may be expected to be found in the very near future."
That's quite full-on language for physicists, so have they found evidence for the Higgs boson and perhaps more?
Well these memo's are really only intended for internal consumption and anyone in the group can write one. But it leaked out and began to get all sorts of people (including me) quite excited.
Since then things have moved on quickly. On Monday at a conference in Grenoble the researchers from ATLAS and another experiment at CERN called CMS announced they had all observed something that could we be the first sign of the Higgs boson. The Americans too think they may see something. To have three separate experiments find something similar is a pretty good sign.
That said we need much more data to be sure. Around ten times as much and that will take until 2012 to gather. One of the researchers working on CMS is a bit more sceptical than I am, and indeed he's blogged while on holiday to explain more about his results.
It's possible that with more data this result may just disappear. Sometimes in physics you end up chasing something that isn't there after all. In fact ATLAS has been here before. But one way or another we won't have long to wait.
Finally here's a tweet from Prof Brian Cox on the whole affair;
Smiley face indeed.