Yes, the Higgs boson has been discovered… or, to put it more accurately, something that looks like a Higgs boson has been discovered. But is it a Higgs boson? There’s a very high probability that it is, but in the world where theory meets high-energy physics, it pays to be completely sure about what you’re looking at.
But for the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, who held a rapturous conference at CERN and in Australia this morning, they’re pretty damned sure they are looking at a bona fide Higgs boson discovery.
“We have observed a new boson,” said CMS lead scientist Joe Incandela.
“We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of five sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV,” confirmed ATLAS lead scientist Fabiola Gianotti.
“I think we have it,” said CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer. “We have discovered a particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson.”
Why all the certainty? Well, it all comes down to statistics, and all the statistics seem to show a defined “bump” in the CMS and ATLAS data around the mass-energy of 125-126 GeV/c2 — to a statistical certainty of 4.9 and 5 sigma. 125-126 GeV/c2 just so happens to be one of the theorized masses of a Higgs boson — placing the Higgs’ mass at 133 times that of a proton. This particular boson is therefore the most massive boson ever detected.
For more news on this incredible discovery, check out my Discovery News blog “Particle ‘Consistent’ With Higgs Boson Discovered“