Scientists from the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider earlier announced the discovery of a subatomic particle that is consistent with the Higgs Boson. In a short answer, yes they've found it.
As CERN Director General Rolf Heuer put it, "As a layman, I think we have it." That's about as unequivocal a statement as you're likely to get from CERN, which is understandably conservative when it comes to announcing possible physics-shattering discoveries.
Then here's his second quote which makes you wonder what the hell again. "But as a scientist, I have to say, 'What do we have?'" They won't be able to answer that just yet, but the announcement that they've found something consistent with the Higgs is definitely something to shout about and its not the end of work for the scientists there.
Rolf Heuer offered as good a summation as any when he said, "We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson." Two sets of independent experiments have tentatively confirmed the discovery of a new subatomic particle, and its in the correct mass range and is the right type of particle to be the Higgs. But we can't say just yet that what CERN has discovered is definitely the Higgs boson, which means The Standard Model will still be ongoing.
The CMS experiment detected a particle at 125.3±0.6 gigaelectronvolts, with a mass of about 133 times that of a proton. The ATLAS experiment, which works independently of CMS, has found a particle at 126.5±0.6 GeV. Both experiments are hovering right around a five-sigma level of certainty.
This means both teams are about 99.9999% that the signals they have detected really do belong to a new particle. Five-sigma is the accepted threshold for a discovery, and the fact that both experiments are at five-sigma — or 4.9-sigma, depending on the exact data, we can be confident enough to say that a new particle has indeed been discovered.
But here's the thing. No one knows exactly what the Higgs boson is. We know that its a particle, one of the two fundamental classes of elementary particles and the type that is generally associated with carrying force.
The mass range of 125-126 GeV is in line with what we expected for the Higgs boson making this particle the heaviest boson ever found.
There are a couple of unique properties that have yet to be confirmed. The most important is that its spin value is 0 and is unlike any known particle. At current we don't yet know the spin of this new particle. If it's 0, then that goes a long way to confirming that this is indeed the Higgs. If its spin is some other value, then there's a near endless supply of other hypothetical particles it could be. Or it could force scientists to rethink the whole Standard Model. .
But if this is the Higgs, then it completes the Standard Model, right?
Maybe, maybe not. Just because its a Higgs doesn't mean its THE Higgs, which fills the missing blank in the Standard Model. But that's not the only kind of possible Higgs — depending on how this new particle behaves, it might point to more exotic physics that go beyond what's predicted by the Standard Model.
All of this is exciting. It may confirm our understandings of the law of physics or it might just shatter it. The exciting possibility is that Higgs can be the door for super symmetry, or improve our understanding of dark matter - the stuff that makes up 96% of the universe.
As ATLAS team member Dr. Pippa Wells told BBC News, several of the observed decay paths already show apparent departures from what would be expected.
The Large Hadron Collider is still set to run through the end of the year, meaning there's still many months more of data still left to be gathered.