Physicists Say They’re Close To Finding So-Called ‘God Particle’

BATAVIA, Ill. (CBS) — American physicists say they’re close to their goal of finding the Higgs boson – known colloquially as the “God particle” – but they’re not there quite yet.

As WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports, Dr. Robert Roeser, a physicist at Fermilab in Batavia says computer analysis of particle tracks suggest, but don’t yet prove, they’ve found the elusive particle.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

“A Higgs boson is an, at the moment, hypothetical particle, which if it existed would give scientists and explanation for how the fundamental particles that make up our universe have mass,” Roeser said.

As the Straight Dope explains, the Standard Model of quantum physics succeeds in explaining the relationships between electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force that holds atomic nuclei together, and the weak nuclear force that relates to radioactivity. But the model does not take into account the force of gravity, and fails to explain why subatomic particles such as electrons and quarks have mass.

Scientists believe subatomic particles gain mass by interacting with the “Higgs field,” a quantum field that fills all of space. The hypothesis is that this interaction involves, in essence, Higgs bosons sticking to the subatomic particles and thus gaining mass.

A Wikipedia article on the subject describes the Higgs field as “as a pool of molasses that ‘sticks’ to the otherwise massless fundamental particles that travel through the field.”

And why is the Higgs boson called the “God particle?”

The Straight Dope says the term was popularized after a book of that title, written by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman.

“Lederman says the God particle was so named because (a) it’s short for ‘goddamn particle,’ presumably owing to the difficulty of establishing its existence, and (b) finding proof of said existence would help us understand the ‘mind of God,’” the Straight Dope’s Cecil Adams wrote in 2009.

The Wikipedia article dismisses the term “God particle” as “generally disliked by the scientific community as media hyperbole that misleads readers.”

Scientists scanning collider data at CERN in Switzerland have reported data traces of the Higgs boson, and now the Fermi crew is reporting they have found similar data from the now shuttered Tevatron at Fermilab.

Dr. Roser says there’s 1 in a 100 chance the scientists are wrong, but they need only a 1 in 3.5 million chance they are wrong before certifying the conclusion that they have discovered the Higgs boson.


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