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Higgs–like particle spotted at CERN – have you seen it?

Image of Higgs boson candidate decaying to four electrons.
Candidate Higgs boson decay to four electrons recorded by ATLAS in 2012. Image courtesy ATLAS.

A new particle has been observed by researchers at the Large Hadron Collider that maybe the elusive Higgs boson.

Rolf Heuer, current director general of CERN said, "We have a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson. The experiments and grid computing were key to the success."

The new boson was seen by the CMS collaboration in the 125.3 (+/- 0.6) giga-electron volts or GeV energy range. It was measured at a 4.9 sigma level of confidence.

This is equal to 99.99990% certainty that the particle they're seeing is the standard model Higgs boson. The ATLAS experiment measured the particle at 126.5 GeV with 5.0 sigma - or 99.99994% certainty.

Over 500 trillion particles were involved in this research.

"If you represent each of those collisions by a grain of sand 100 microns across (one micron is a millionth of a meter), you'd have enough sand to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. That's how many particle collisions we've been looking at," said Joe Incandela, professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and spokesperson for the CMS experiment.

Image of a made-up Higgs boson particle at Yellowstone National Park, US.
A potential competition-winning photo of a Higgs boson at Yellowstone National Park, US. Image courtesy Symmetry Breaking.

If this particle is indeed the Higgs boson, or 'God particle', (physicist Leon Lederman originally wanted to call it the 'Goddamn particle'), predicted by the standard model, then it will explain why all the particles in our universe have mass. And confirm that the standard model is correct. But, more study is needed.

To help with this proof, the public can join in to help with their own observations. Symmetry Magazine,a joint Fermilab and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center publication, has invited its readers to submit proof of whether they've seen the Higgs boson by photographic evidence. You can post to their website directly, or Facebook, or tweet a link of your image to them. The winning competition images will be announced in August.

More information about the competition can be found on the Symmetry Breaking website.

- Adrian Giordani

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