Higgs Boson Discovered: CERN conference reports Higgs evidence is overwhelming
Scientists meeting today at CERN, Geneva, are presenting data that confirms to a high level of certainty the existence of the Higgs boson, the particle proposed by Peter Higgs in 1964 to explain how particles have mass.
The new data from LHC (Large Hadron Collider) confirms the existence of a particle with the correct amount of energy to be the Higgs boson, to a certainty of 5 sigma. A 5 sigma signal is needed to confirm the discovery of a new particle.
- What does a 5 sigma Higgs signal mean?
A 5 sigma Higgs signal means that there is a 0.00003% probability of the signal occurring randomly, i.e., that it is not linked to the Higgs boson.
Why is the Higgs boson so important?
The Higgs boson is the "missing piece of the puzzle" of particle physics. Without including it in their models, physicists cannot explain why particles have mass. This isn't the first time that scientists have caught a glimpse of the Higgs, but it is the first time that the data has confirmed the discovery to the level of certainty demanded by particle physics.
The Higgs boson interacts with other particles through an interaction known as the Higgs mechanism, suggested by Peter Higgs in 1964. The 83 year-old scientist, speaking at the conference today, had tears in his eyes as he applauded the efforts of the researchers who confirmed his theory. "I never thought this would happen in my lifetime," he said.
Hunting the Higgs is a tough job. Scientists must sift through masses of data collected by the Large Hadron Collider, which smashes protons together at speeds of more than 99.999999% of the speed of light - the fastest speed that anything in the universe can travel at. Once they have filtered out the background noise, they must perform statistical analysis to decide whether the signals they see are strong enough to confirm the existence of the Higgs.
On this occasion, it seems that they are. The director of CERN, Rolf Heuer, addressed the conference, saying "As a layman, I think we have it." The audience of physics researchers applauded loudly; the evidence for the Higgs is overwhelming.
During the rest of the conference, physicists will discuss what direction future research will take. Ultimately, the discovery of the Higgs will raise as many questions as it answered.
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