50 years ago, Peter Higgs and five other theoretical physicists proposed the existence of a molecule, an entity which they believed gave all particles their mass, a fundamental element which allows gravity and the formation of any structures larger than molecular compounds. Suns, planets and galaxies would never have existed, and the universe would be a very different place.
These physicists could not prove the existence of this molecule, named the Higgs Boson, but they believed that this would fill a fundamental gap in the current theories about how the universe formed its structure after the Big Bang – a theoretical event which many believe to have been the birth of the universe.
These physicists created CERN, which was set up in 1954. CERN is also the place where Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. Their aim was to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson, and to go about that, they developed the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. This project cost £4.75 bn and took six and a half years to build. The concept is to fire two protons at each other very close to the speed of light and to observe any particles created during the impact.
Recently, CERN and another LHC in America have observed a “bump” in their data, at about 125-126 gigaelectronvolts, which they claim is to be evidence of the existence of the Higgs Boson. The measurement of a discovery is measured in Sigma. For a finding to count as a solid discovery, the evidence must reach 5 Sigma, about one in 3.5 million chance that the findings are due to an anomaly. Recently, the teams have only been able to reach about 3 -4 sigma, but the teams have announced this morning that they have reached 5 sigma, heralding a new discovery.