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Strong Signs of Higgs Discovery

A representation of the innerworkings of the Atlas particle detector painted on one of the walls at the CERN campus in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images.

New results from Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider “strongly indicate” that scientists have found the Higgs boson, the elusive particle believed to be responsible for giving mass to matter, scientists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, reported on Thursday.

After analyzing two and a half times more data since the discovery announcement in July, CERN researchers say “the new particle is looking more and more like a Higgs boson.” But they stopped short of conclusively calling it Higgs.

Still unknown is whether this is the “standard model,” the subatomic particle that was originally predicted or “the lightest of several bosons predicted in some theories that go beyond the Standard Model,” according to the CERN announcement.

The Higgs boson is responsible for giving other particles — and thus stars, planets and everything on Earth — mass. And mass means weight, size and shape.

For background, here’s the NewsHour’s discussion with Guardian Science correspondent Ian Sample from July, 2012.

“There’s an energy field in the space all around us, it goes through us, it’s everywhere you can think of,” Sample told NewsHour correspondent Ray Suarez.

“That field does something absolutely fundamental, which is it gives mass or weight to the smallest particles that make up you and me and everything else you can think of — any normal object. It gives weight to those objects, and if that wasn’t there… we wouldn’t have stars, planets, none of us would be here.”

Note: the news isn’t all new. Some, like Wired’s Adam Mann earlier this week called it a yawn. Cosmologist Sean Carroll said “it’s looking pretty vanilla.”

Here’s a report we did a while back explaining what the Higgs boson means to physics, and how particle physicists will know when they’ve found it.

And below, find some of our favorite videos on the subatomic particle.

This video, by Daniel Whiteson, a physics professor at University of California, Irvine and cartoonist and robot scientist Jorge Cham, relies on animated drawings of quarks, a periodic table and cartoon people clinging to subatomic particles flying through space to tell the story of the Large Hadron Collider searching for Higgs.

[vimeo 41038445 w=482 h=361]

Here’s a wonderful video explainer about the Higgs boson by The Guardian’s Ian Sample. He explains what a Higgs boson is, how to look for it and why it matters using just a tray, a bag of sugar and some ping pong balls.

And we promise to never talk about Higgs without including the LHC Rap:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j50ZssEojtM&w=482&h=315]

Read more science news on NewsHour’s Science and Technology page.

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