Scientists beavering away at CERN have discovered a new particle consistent with the Higgs boson, which could significantly improve our understand of physics and the universe. As a frontier physicist once said, "what a fine day for science".
Thanking theorists and everyone involved in the Large Hadron Collider project, CERN's CMS experiment confirmed that they had discovered a new boson with a mass of 126 gigaelectronvolts, with 4.9 sigma confidence (ie they're pretty blinking sure).
The ATLAS experiment, meanwhile, announced a 5 sigma signal of a particle with a mass that matches physicists' ideas of the sneaky subatomic fellow. Or in other words, the enormous amount of work and expense involved in discovering the up-until-now hypothetical particle has paid off.
Had the Higgs boson not been identified, it would have poked serious holes in our general understanding of physics. The Higgs boson is thought to be what gives all other particles mass, and was first theorised in the 1960s by Edinburgh physicist Peter Higgs.
The Telegraph reports that Professor John Womersley, boss of the Science and Technology Facilities Council said at a London briefing this morning, "Discovery is an important word. That is confirmed," going on to declare, "It's a momentous day for science."
CERN spokesman Joe Incandela said in a video that leaked yesterday, "The significance of this observation could be very very great," but goes on to explain that not everything is certain yet.
"It could be ultimately seen that its properties are very consistent with the standard-model Higgs," Incandela says, "or we may find out that some of its properties don't exactly match the expectations for the standard-model Higgs. And if that's the case then we have something really quite profound, and it could be a gateway, if you like, to exploring the next phase of the deepest parts of the fabric of our universe."
High fives all around at CERN, and relief in the CNET UK offices that our fears of a time-travel apocalypse have not come to pass.
Are you psyched for physics? Let me know what you make of CERN's discovery in the comments, or on our Facebook wall -- and if you want to know more about the LHC, check out our video.
Image credit: CERN