The discovery of a new particle thought to be the elusive Higgs boson represents the culmination of nearly 50 years of research, and completes a theory about how the most basic constituents of matter interact with each other.
For physicists, it was a moment like landing on the moon or the discovery of DNA.
The focus was the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that exists for a mere fraction of a second. Long theorized but never glimpsed, the so-called God particle is thought to be key to understanding the existence of all mass in the universe. The revelation Wednesday that it — or some version of it — had almost certainly been detected amid more than hundreds of trillions of high-speed collisions in a 17-mile track near Geneva prompted a group of normally reserved scientists to erupt with joy.
Peter Higgs, one of the scientists who first hypothesized the existence of the particle, reportedly shed tears as the data were presented in a jam-packed and applause-heavy seminar at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
The achievement, nearly 50 years in the making, confirms physicists’ understanding of how mass — the stuff that makes stars, planets and even people — arose in the universe, they said.
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