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 1625.

    @1613 Las
    That sounds more like a conspiracy theory than scepticism.
    "As we know, massive amounts of money and prestige have been invested in the LHC, and failure to "discover" the Higgs boson is not even an option."
    Flat out false. If the LHC had shown the Higgs didn't exist it would have been every bit as remarkable a result. So long as the LHC worked it was a win-win situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1624.

    Get with the times, it's not called the God Particle anymore, it's now known as, "The Champagne Bottle Boson"


  • rate this

    Comment number 1623.

    1618.Entropic man
    so lets ask the church about its priests and pedophillia shall we?
    religon expects fools to believe the earth is just 6-7000 years old and ignore the fact we have trees up to 10000 years old alive right now.
    Also remember unlike the church science welcomes those who challenge their theories aslong as its based on facts not made up stories from a book for people scared of death

  • rate this

    Comment number 1622.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1621.

    So to re-cap.

    1/. We have a need to identify something with xyz.

    2/. We have a name.

    3/. We have an observation.

    4/. We may have another potential theory we can exploit.

    BUT WAIT: What actually is it?

    I used to ask my science teach this 50 years ago about the atom.

    We seem to be running into wider a thicker road blocks.

    But hey. Don't knock it we have made a lot of hay out of all this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1620.

    @1604. Lacenbastion

    Fully agree with you.

    However, my original point was the irony inherent in the naysayers using technology to make negative comments about science in apparent blissful ignorance of where that technology came from.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1619.

    People who claim that discoveries like this are useless are narrow-minded and self-absorbed. Discoveries like this further our understanding of the universe we live in, they help us understand where we come from and what we are made of, and they help us understand how the things around us work. Such knowledge helps us move forward and develop better science and technology. Useless? Less than you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1618.

    If you want theories, ask a scientist.
    If you wany probabilities ask a statistician.
    If you want certainty ask a politician.
    If you wany Truth ask a priest.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1617.

    @1559. Doctor Bob
    I don't know. (Science hasn't given me precognitive powers). A lot of the fun will be finding out though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1616.

    How can this discovery be used for our benefit? I remember similar questions being asked upon the the development of the laser. It took a few years to apply it usefully but in hindsight it was a very significant development

  • rate this

    Comment number 1615.

    Oh I see how it works now...

    We're all "Glued" up!

    Oh & seeing they are calling it the "God" particle...does that now mean...that scientist's have at last discovered "God"?

    If so? It's about time!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1614.

    1592.Over Population

    We may have made ourselves extinct before this is of any use to us .....

    I wish people would stop with this assertion. It would take a severe and long term event to make humans extinct - our species is highly adaptable and globally dispersed. The extinction of our species is more probably going to occur through replacement via evolution.
    Our culture is another matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1613.

    Sceptical remarks are usually "moderated" out, but I'll try ... As we know, massive amounts of money and prestige have been invested in the LHC, and failure to "discover" the Higgs boson is not even an option. So, lo behold, they did discover this miraculous "particle". Let's remember the "discovery" of the phlogiston and the luminiferous ether, as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1612.

    1597. Gary #1585 "well considered criticism IS good science. What you present is unfounded opinion. 'Someone' told you? Who is this magic someone? What is their evidence?"
    What, pray, was the evidence for the Higgs boson that caused the build of the LHC?
    Quark? Neutrino? Gluon? Messenger photon? Have they been detected singly & unambiguously?

    Come on, don't be shy. Facts, please, it's science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1611.

    Speculation of the applications regarding the discovery of Higgs Boson is only limited by ones imagination. But to be honest, if we can I'm a bit dubious about manipulating the mass of objects though I realise this is probably an unfounded fear through the indoctrination of known science which taught me the mass is always constant. Perhaps somethings are better left alone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1610.

    @1589: You show your lack of imagination saying the the higgs can't feed starving people. It can't feed them TODAY, but TOMORROW, they could find ways to manipulate the higgs field, create inertialess vehicles, and have effectively zero cost transportation, making food much more readily available to all.

    You can't see any benefit to blue sky science unless you have the imagination to find it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1609.

    @1601. lee200

    I think you are being a bit hard on the trolls. “Unimaginative”, certainly but “backward looking pond life” may be a bit harsh!

    I’m reminded of the Monty Python sketch from “Life of Brian”.

    “What did the Romans ever do for us?”





    “Yes, but apart from roads, bridges, canals and baths ……”

  • rate this

    Comment number 1608.

    "I'm not sure which is worse, the god botherers with their self proving books or the pseudo scientists with their inflexible views."

    ...or the intra-lecture-all snobs who alienate 'ordinary' people from science?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1607.

    A research team including the notion of years of hard work and great expense -having learned so much -as a final decision making factor in determining why an esoteric project should be forced forward instead of starting over is a fine example of true, fear based junk science. Fine and dandy if one is funding it with ones own money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1606.


    #1585, well considered criticism IS good science. What you present is unfounded opinion.

    Don't let old "shifty" get to you - he's been on at this all day. He has his point of view and at least now we are clear on what it is and isn't.
    I'm not sure which is worse, the god botherers with their self proving books or the pseudo scientists with their inflexible views.


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