A half-century scientific quest culminated early Wednesday as physicists announced the discovery of a new subatomic particle — one theorized to be so fundamental that without it, nothing could exist.
Dubbed the Higgs boson — or the “God particle,” to the chagrin of scientists — the particle is thought to create a sort of force field that permeates the universe, imbuing everything that we can see and touch with the fundamental property known as mass.
“To the layman I now say, I think we have it,” said Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director general of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, immediately after physicists presented compelling evidence for the new particle at a seminar in Geneva.
“Do you agree?” he asked the several hundred scientists packing CERN’s main auditorium.
Applause broke out. The video feed from CERN showed Peter Higgs, the University of Edinburgh physicist who theorized the existence of this exotic particle in 1964, tearing up.
“We have a discovery,” Heuer said. “We have discovered a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson. It’s a historic milestone today.”
The scientists at CERN then stood, applauded and cheered for a full minute.
“I have the impression you are all happy,” Heuer said.
Moments later, Higgs stood and said, “For me, it’s really an incredible thing that happened in my lifetime.”
What a magnificent event for Peter Higgs, bless him. The Washington Post has a good analogy:
One way to think of the Higgs field: It’s the water the entire universe swims in.
OK, so they’ve found the Higgs boson; why can’t they find my extra set of headphones? [Rim shot!]