Scientists at CERN in Switzerland have announced the discovery of a new elementary particle, the first new particle since the Z boson was discovered way back in 1983. Curiously, CERN isn’t calling this the Higgs boson — but rather, a particleconsistent with what the Higgs boson is theorized to be. It is entirely possible (though unlikely) that CERN has discovered another particle, which would be even more exciting. If you’re not up to speed on what the Higgs boson/God particle actually is, watch the video embedded below.
Without getting into some very complicated particle physics equations, here’s the quick rundown from the ATLAS and CMS detector teams at CERN: Basically, following their results from December 2011, which showed a very interesting peak in the 125-126 gigaelectronvolt mass-energy range (GeV), the last six months have been spent trying to coerce the Higgs boson out of hiding using different techniques. The CMS team went first this morning, and said that it had discovered a new particle around 125 GeV, with 5-sigma certainty (99.99997%). Then the ATLAS team showed off its findings, and it too confirmed the existence of a new particle around 126 GeV with 5-sigma certainty. This means there’s a 1 in 3.5 million chance that CERN has not discovered a new particle — slim enough odds that the scientists feel comfortable declaring they have indeed found something new.
In all likelihood, this is the Higgs boson — the God particle — at 125-126 GeV. It’s worth noting, though, that the ATLAS team also announced that it found a statistical bump in the 90 GeV region; it might be nothing, or it might be another new particle. The CMS detector also found some interesting data (in the H > ττ channel) that might indicate that the particle we’ve discovered doesn’t behave exactly as expected.
Moving forward, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (and presumably other particle accelerators, such as Fermilab’s Tevatron) will focus on the 125-126 GeV region and try to work out whether this new particle is actually the same God particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. Today is an important day for science, and for human civilization as a whole. CERN picked a good date to announce its findings, too: In the future, rather than drinking beer and grilling meet to celebrate the vanquishing of those British malcontents from our glorious land, instead I will celebrate the discovery of the particle that makes this universe, and thus everything I hold dear, possible.
Updated @ 10am: The conference is now available on CERN’s website — or you can watch it below.