Tears as 'Higgs-like' particle found

2012-07-05 10:42

Geneva - Raucous applause more usually seen at a football match and tearful exchanges are not things you would associate with a meeting of the science community.

But this was no ordinary gathering, borne out by the hundreds of people who queued, some overnight with a duvet, to gain access to the 400-seater auditorium at Cern, as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research is known.

The centre on the French-Swiss border had not seen a day like it as physicists from all corners of the globe grappled for a front row seat at the milestone moment when the existence of a Higgs-like particle would be revealed.

A video leak on Tuesday ahead of the scheduled update had peaked everyone's excitement.

"They were snaking back and forth, the queue even reaching into the restaurant," said a Cern spokesperson.

Dress code

For the first time ever, the unusual tribe which is particle physicists found themselves with a global showcase for their work.

Yet not a single tie was in sight for the historic event.

If there was a dress code, it was open-necked shirt or a T-shirt, sometimes with long hair or a beard - and one individual at the front of the auditorium even wore short trousers.

A group of teenagers from Preston, England, arriving for a tour of the home of the Large Hadron Collider could not believe the timing of their visit and badgered their teacher with questions.

Meanwhile journalists scratched their heads as they sought to get to grips with concepts like "GeVs" and "sigma" and how to begin explaining it to the average non-physics genius.

Such was the anticipated hunger of the world media that Cern commissioned a massive press team sporting orange "press" armbands and fluent in most languages.

There was silence as the institute's Joe Incandela gave a complex explanation of how his CMS team had established what he finally went on to utter: "We have observed a new boson."


Massive applause ensued as a theory first formulated almost 50 years ago appeared to be nearing reality and all eyes turned to the man behind it, 83-year-old Peter Higgs.

Higgs and Belgian physicist Francois Englert, 79, who separately contributed to the theory, smiled humbly at one another as those in the auditorium got to their feet to salute the pair.

"It's an incredible thing that it's happened in my lifetime," said Higgs, while a moist-eyed Englert paid tribute to Robert Brout, a fellow pioneer who died in 2011.

Incandela said the applause was "like at a football match".

It was hard to say whether the overriding feeling among scientists was one of relief that decades of work had proved fruitful or excitement at embarking on a journey that in many ways is only just beginning.

"I can only say that it's not for nothing that we have been looking for this particle for so many years," said a smiling Cern chief Rolf Heuer.

"It's a fantastic day - it's a beautiful moment for physics, for Cern and it is a real beginning, because what we see, it looks like a Higgs boson, but not quite," said Cern research director Sergio Bertolucci.

For Oliver Buchmueller from CMS, one of the experiment programmes at Cern, who spent the last fortnight furiously checking data, tiredness was only just beginning to give way to excitement.

"At the moment I'm very tired to be honest. It was two very long weeks of putting it all together but I think now that everything is over the excitement is kicking in now," said the expert from Imperial College London.

"It's a major event and many of my colleagues and me personally have invested years to make sure that this is going to happen."

  • - 2012-07-05 11:02

    A joyous, awesome event indeed!

      Thermophage - 2012-07-05 16:24

      Definitely a lump and a tear here as well

  • Henri - 2012-07-05 11:08

    for all the athiest and religious people, this doesnt mean God doesnt exist neither does it proof that he does, this means that there is effidence to proof from where matter and weight comes from. explaining why one thing weights more than another thats the same size.

      William - 2012-07-05 12:06

      ..and that the end is nigh.

      SarcasticAgnostic - 2012-07-05 19:44

      Meme, don't be so sure. You know how good the religious are at integrating things they cannot deny into their dogma.

      heinrich.venter.9 - 2012-07-06 08:59

      For a moment I was overjoyed at this discovery seeing as I also have a keen interest in science...then I started reading the comments and just got sad. Luckily as soon as I leave this page and exit my browser,I'm still a man that has space for science and faith.

  • conrad.hoffman.5 - 2012-07-05 11:12

    The God particle...

  • - 2012-07-05 11:17

    The important bit here is "Higgs-like". They're not completely certain it is the Higgs boson, yet.

      jurgen.eksteen - 2012-07-05 11:59

      I agree. Most people seems to jump right past this fact. - 2012-07-05 15:20

      As a skeptic, I will believe it is the Higgs boson when they can say with absolute certainty that it is. ;)

      wesleywt - 2012-07-05 21:01

      Higgs Boson was a theoretical particle that was predicted to exist. This particle they found conforms to Higgs' theoretical particle therefore its Higgs like.

  • - 2012-07-05 11:42

    Pity the man who discovered this was never given the recognition for his finding that was made during the colonial times in India. Satyendra Nath Bose, you must be smiling in your grave. They finally found the "G" spot that you told Einstein about in 1924.

      wesleywt - 2012-07-06 06:19

      That's incorrect. Higgs predicted the particle that confers mass. Called it a boson (named after Bose). You are true South African. Always looking for the bad side of life.

  • jurgen.eksteen - 2012-07-05 11:59

    FINAALLLYYYY!!! We can go home!

  • Castiel - 2012-07-05 12:01

    Chalk up another one for science!

      johan.prins3 - 2012-07-11 22:34

      Does this blimp on the screen proves that it explains rest-mass? How ridiculous can you get?

  • regbroekmann - 2012-07-05 14:17

    The jury is still out on this one! Why is it only 'Higgs-like'? What does it explain and what is still missing? I guess time will tell, but jubilation seems a little premature at this stage.

      janalbert.vandenberg - 2012-07-05 16:14

      Before commenting, first make sure you fully comprehend the meaning of 'Higgs-like'. (1) considerable evidence for something these, if not *the* Higgs particle (2) still an undiscovered particle, but in the energy-range expected for Higgs. Ultracool. There they have discovered *something* and that is what is cool, independent of exactly *what* discovered :-D

      johan.prins3 - 2012-07-05 21:09

      Light wave moves with speed c relative to all inertial refrence frames and cannot be stationary within any one of them. Electron wave moves with different speeds v relative to different inertial reference frames and is stationary within the inertial reference frame moving with it. Stationary wave energy equals mass-energy: So why do we need a Higgs boson?

  • janalbert.vandenberg - 2012-07-05 16:12

    Gimme a P, gimme a H, gimme a Y S I, gimme a C, gimme an S, Go PHYSICS!!! LOL And see me donning a little leotard with pompoms. Yeah, a sight of true horror!!! GHHRHRR

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