Higgs boson-like particle discovery claimed at LHC


The moment when Cern director Rolf Heuer confirmed the Higgs results

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Cern scientists reporting from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have claimed the discovery of a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson.

The particle has been the subject of a 45-year hunt to explain how matter attains its mass.

Both of the Higgs boson-hunting experiments at the LHC (Atlas and CMS) see a level of certainty in their data worthy of a "discovery".

More work will be needed to be certain that what they see is a Higgs, however.

Prof Stephen Hawking tells the BBC's Pallab Ghosh the discovery has cost him $100

The results announced at Cern (European Organization for Nuclear Research), home of the LHC in Geneva, were met with loud applause and cheering.

Prof Peter Higgs, after whom the particle is named, wiped a tear from his eye as the teams finished their presentations in the Cern auditorium.

"I would like to add my congratulations to everyone involved in this achievement," he added later.

"It's really an incredible thing that it's happened in my lifetime."

Prof Stephen Hawking joined in with an opinion on a topic often discussed in hushed tones.

"This is an important result and should earn Peter Higgs the Nobel Prize," he told BBC News.

"But it is a pity in a way because the great advances in physics have come from experiments that gave results we didn't expect."


The CMS experiment team claimed they had seen a "bump" in their data corresponding to a particle weighing in at 125.3 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) - about 133 times heavier than the protons that lie at the heart of every atom.

The BBC's George Alagiah explains the Higgs boson

They claimed that by combining two data sets, they had attained a confidence level just at the "five-sigma" point - about a one-in-3.5 million chance that the signal they see would appear if there were no Higgs particle.

However, a full combination of the CMS data brings that number just back to 4.9 sigma - a one-in-two million chance.

Prof Joe Incandela, spokesman for CMS, was unequivocal: "The results are preliminary but the five-sigma signal at around 125 GeV we're seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle," he told the Geneva meeting.

The Atlas experiment results were even more promising, at a slightly higher mass: "We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of five sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV," said Dr Fabiola Gianotti, spokeswoman for the Atlas experiment at the LHC.

Peter Higgs Peter Higgs joined three of the six theoreticians who first predicted the Higgs at the conference

Prof Rolf Heuer, director-general of Cern, commented: "As a layman I would now say I think we have it."

"We have a discovery - we have observed a new particle consistent with a Higgs boson. But which one? That remains open.

"It is a historic milestone but it is only the beginning."

Commenting on the emotions of the scientists involved in the discovery, Prof Incandela said: "It didn't really hit me emotionally until today because we have to be so focussed… but I'm super-proud."

Dr Gianotti echoed Prof Incandela's thoughts, adding: "The last few days have been extremely intense, full of work, lots of emotions."

A confirmation that this is the Higgs boson would be one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the century; the hunt for the Higgs has been compared by some physicists to the Apollo programme that reached the Moon in the 1960s.

Statistics of a 'discovery'

Swiss franc coin
  • Particle physics has an accepted definition for a "discovery": a five-sigma level of certainty
  • The number of standard deviations, or sigmas, is a measure of how unlikely it is that an experimental result is simply down to chance, in the absence of a real effect
  • Similarly, tossing a coin and getting a number of heads in a row may just be chance, rather than a sign of a "loaded" coin
  • The "three sigma" level represents about the same likelihood of tossing nine heads in a row
  • Five sigma, on the other hand, would correspond to tossing more than 21 in a row
  • Unlikely results are more probable when several experiments are carried out at once - equivalent to several people flipping coins at the same time
  • With independent confirmation by other experiments, five-sigma findings become accepted discoveries

Scientists would then have to assess whether the particle they see behaves like the version of the Higgs particle predicted by the Standard Model, the current best theory to explain how the Universe works. However, it might also be something more exotic.

All the matter we can see appears to comprise just 4% of the Universe, the rest being made up by mysterious dark matter and dark energy.

A more exotic version of the Higgs could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the Universe that remains obscure.

Scientists will have to look at how the Higgs decays - or transforms - into other, more stable particles after being produced in collisions at the LHC.

Dr Pippa Wells, a member of the Atlas experiment, said that several of the decay paths already showed deviations from what one would expect of the Standard Model Higgs.

For example, a decay path where the Higgs transforms into two photon particles was "a bit on the high side", she explained.

These could get back into line as more statistics are added, but on the other hand, they may not.

"We're reaching into the fabric of the Universe at a level we've never done before," said Prof Incandela.

"We're on the frontier now, on the edge of a new exploration. This could be the only part of the story that's left, or we could open a whole new realm of discovery."

The Standard Model and the Higgs boson

Standard model

The Standard Model is the simplest set of ingredients - elementary particles - needed to make up the world we see in the heavens and in the laboratory

Quarks combine together to make, for example, the proton and neutron - which make up the nuclei of atoms today - though more exotic combinations were around in the Universe's early days

Leptons come in charged and uncharged versions; electrons - the most familiar charged lepton - together with quarks make up all the matter we can see; the uncharged leptons are neutrinos, which rarely interact with matter

The "force carriers" are particles whose movements are observed as familiar forces such as those behind electricity and light (electromagnetism) and radioactive decay (the weak nuclear force)

The Higgs boson came about because although the Standard Model holds together neatly, nothing requires the particles to have mass; for a fuller theory, the Higgs - or something else - must fill in that gap

Paul.Rincon-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1505.

    if you look at the theory, even, by the way, why should the committee name it 'Higgs Boson Theory', if it is a real 'Fact'! Well, to the matter of fact, the study is all about the past of how the Universe created! So, if not a trouble, can the Committee prove about the Future without having things like Theory?! This is crucial because, we know that water will boil from 100C degree, a bare fact.→

  • rate this

    Comment number 1504.

    The worlds going to end this December,I hear.Got anything to do with messing with the god particle?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1503.

    @deadpensean. no. CERN only proved the standart model of quantum mechanics, which explains how did the universe came into being. those on the other hand, are theoretically possible, though i'd say still need a lot of centuries to be actually materialized and a couple of more generations after that to be actually commercialized.

  • Comment number 1502.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1501.

    Why do I only have trouble downloading BBC videos?

    I have no trouble with anyone else. It is much easier to use an American site.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1500.

    Everyone, listen, this bosom is only named the god particle because it took nearly 50 years for it to be scientifically observed and proven exists, and before that many believed it was not possible, just like how it is not possible to prove whether god exists or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1499.

    Please god don't let it be an impostor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1498.

    God created the universe out of nothing - end of

  • rate this

    Comment number 1497.


    "After all we have yet to discover our own missing link..."

    Are you serious?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1496.

    @1484. rockandhardplace
    @1467. stewart

    The more we know, the bigger the boundary between what we know and what we don't know.

    That is, the more we know, we more we know we don't know. Such is life.

    PS. This idea comes from the particle physicist Steven Weinberg and NOT the dodgy geezer Donald Rumsfeld.

    @1486. Shanklish ... sorry, couldn't resist!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1495.

    1483. Bellatori - Says who? Shouldn't everything come with the qualification and/or statement 'As We (the Human Race) Understand It'? After all we have yet to discover our own missing link. Surely the basis for us to assume there is no evidence for smaller particles is our own current knowledge of physics, which in itself may be wrong. 1487.
    Golgotha - exactly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1494.

    Prof Brian Cox says 'civilization is built on it' ...It still won't stop 'us' being the most treacherous animal on the planet, killing each other over religion, and greed, spoilng the planet, destroying wild life and all that, will it mean perhaps 'civilization' will bloody well grow up.... will it make a scrap of difference?..... I doubt it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1493.

    I am surprised we can comment. Higgs spent many years at Edinburgh University abd the BBC have closed the Scottish comments pages since the elections in 2011 when none of the BBC parties got a majority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1492.

    Just a thought would the confirmation of the Higgs Boson result in our eventual negation of mass at the flick of a switch?
    Would this then allow travel at the speed of light instantly and allow a dead stop midflight?
    Would we banish vechicle deaths as no mass no inertia means cars could be built out of tissue paper and not bend when they hit something?
    Or have I got it wrong..

  • rate this

    Comment number 1491.

    you completely misunderstand your quotes.
    The concept they are hinting at is that many scientific theories, although they may not be understood in intricate depth by everyone, the basic concept at least can be given over to anyone with reasonable intelligence.
    Personally i find the basic idea of the higgs-that it gives particles inertia, much easier to intuitively grasp than relativity etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1490.

    I am just trying to picture Sheldon Cooper's face if he read some of the Luddite comments on here! Chuck Lorre could have a field day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1489.

    @rockandhardplace no one ever assumes such a thing, we only assume that for human life, and even for that we only assume.
    @stewart the big bang, of course. they are made of quarks, and quarks are made of quagma, a quark-gluon plasma, theoretical phase happened some time after big bang.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1488.

    A little over 100 years ago, physics was considered almost wrapped up. Newton explained it all. Except for a few small details, case closed. Unorthodox theories explained those little details. Data from ingenious experimental work supported the theories. All of those brilliant minds working together opened the doors to a world we now take for granted. This is one of those moments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1487.


    "How many times in History has fantasy become reality?"

    Good question, how many times?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1486.


    Thanks Paul. Realised after hitting 'post comment'. Dawkins, Hawking! Why do eminent scientists copy each other's names!?


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