SA prof worked on finding Higgs particle

2012-07-05 07:26

Johannesburg - Six South African universities, under the SA-Cern programme, played a key role in the observation the Higgs-like particle announced at the Cern facility in Geneva.

University of Johannesburg (UJ), contributed directly to one of the "channels" leading to the discovery of the Higgs-like particle.

UJ's Professor Simon Connell formed part of the group which worked on the "Higgs to four-lepton". The Higgs emerges as a result of protons smashing into each other at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern or European Organisation for Nuclear Research.

"The LHC smashes protons together with an energy density which is 100 000 times greater than the centre of the sun. This produces many particles with great multiplicity where finding the Higgs is like searching for a needle in a haystack," he told News24.

Connell said that soon after the collision the Higgs potentially decays into four-lepton particles which constituted the focus of his group's research.

South Africa's involvement in the Cern programme will lead to a variety of spinoffs for the country as a whole.

"Considering that the internet was a development that arose from Cern, South Africa has already begun incorporating a next generation computing grid being used at the facility," Connell said.

The new era of high performance computing is revolutionising medical research and hospital diagnostic technology.


Two independent research groups, CMS and Atlas, seek to discover the Higgs boson. On Wednesday the CMS team announced 4.9 "sigma rating" of certainty while Atlas reported five-sigma.

According to the rating system, five-sigma is required to claim that a discovery has less than one in a million chance of being a fluke.

"As a layman I would say I think we have it," the Guardian quoted the Cern's director general, Rolf Dieter Heuer, as saying.

Official verification of the particle may take some time, but scientists are unanimous in their acceptance of a newly discovered particle.


Physicists say the discovery of the Higgs boson will either complete the 48-year-old Standard Model or herald a new era in the field of particle physics.

The Higgs boson is presumed to be the smallest particle making up the Higgs field, an energy field present throughout the universe.

It is this field which interacts with every particle in the universe including planets and stars to give it mass.

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  • Hugh - 2012-07-05 07:58

    Good to read that some of our remaining scientists remain in the realm of international hard science.

      marcelle.joubertdurandt - 2012-07-05 08:22

      Mmmmmmm, I see News24 deleted my comment - OK - Let's go again ... Agree Xenswim1 .... I wonder who the "PERSON" was that gave a "thumbs down" on your comment ... Seriously? Is that OK now, NEWS24?

  • pierreft - 2012-07-05 08:48

    If only SA could discover something important in the field of science etc. However , many are leaving the country for obvious reasons :D The focus in the country nowadays is politics, not development..

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-07-05 10:54

      That's true... all they care about it politics, money and race

  • eyesears.handsfeet - 2012-07-05 10:06

    What is so significant about this "discovery" Really I'm trying to understand what all the haa hoo is all about? Soemthing discovered but not yet confirmed and how will this help in the future?

      wesley.bischoff - 2012-07-05 10:55

      Less than 1 in a million chance it's NOT a fluke, so i think it's pretty much confirmed... Google Higgs boson and find out what it's all about

  • wesley.bischoff - 2012-07-05 10:47

    Well done SA!!! Positivity and progress still comes out of our wonderful country :)

  • bj.pieman - 2012-07-11 08:41

    what are the other 5 universities?

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