Thursday 14 December 2017

Scientists get elusive glimpse of God

Nick Collins in Geneva

SCIENTISTS say they are "homing in" on the holy grail of discovery by catching the first tantalising glimpses of the elusive "God particle".

Known as the Higgs boson, the "God particle" is so called because it gives mass to matter.

At a specially arranged seminar at the Cern laboratory in Geneva, researchers revealed hints that the particle may finally have been pinned down.

An experiment mimicking the big bang at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has yielded "intriguing" signals of a Higgs that tally with scientists' best guesses about what the particle looks like.

The heads of the two rival teams hunting the subatomic particle announced that they had independently found results which were very closely matched.

Although the research was not conclusive, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, Cern's director-general, confidently predicted a concrete answer would be found within the next year.

Jon Butterworth, the UK head of the ATLAS team, said: "Before today I would never have bet anything more than 50/50 on the existence of the Higgs.

"Now I would say better than that, but we are still a long way away from certainty.

"If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said there was no chance we would be this far along by now. It is a huge step in the hunt for the Higgs but it is not the last step."

Dr Claire Shepherd-Themistocleus, Head of the CMS Group at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, added: "We are homing in on the Higgs. We have had hints today of what its mass might be and the excitement of scientists is palpable.

"We are on the verge of a major change in our understanding of the fundamental nature of matter."

The mysterious subatomic particle was proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964, but until now has been the subject of debate because it has never actually been seen.

The Higgs boson is viewed as the final missing component of the Standard Model, the most widely accepted explanation of how particles behave.

It is also key to explaining why subatomic particles, the building blocks of the universe, have mass rather than whizzing around the cosmos at light speed.

Ever since yesterday's seminar was announced two weeks ago, scientists had been feverishly speculating what the LHC might have found.

Excitement was such that the presentation hall reached capacity half an hour early, with senior researchers forced to gather around television screens in an annexe outside due to a lack of space.

Presenting the results to the eager audience, Fabiola Gianotti, the head of ATLAS, said they were "really extraordinary".

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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