Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Cern, today announced that they now have sufficient evidence to claim the existence of the new particle, which they hope is the final missing ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics.
The Higgs boson, predicted by theoretical physicists in the 1960s, has been known as the “God particle” because without it other particles, such as electrons and quarks, would be massless.
The minister praised the UK’s role in the 20-year search for the Higgs.
“Our researchers, universities and industry partners have been instrumental in making the Large Hadron Collider such a success.
“They deserve recognition for their contribution to this scientific milestone that will change the way we look at the universe from now on.”
Physicists stressed that despite the discovery, much more work needed to be done.
“We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” said Cern director general Rolf Heuer.
“The discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particle’s properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe.”
Jim Al-Khalili, professor of physics at the University of Surrey, said the discovery was almost certainly the Higgs boson: “They are still being cautious – as I would be if I worked for Cern – although they have definitely found a new particle, they say they cannot be sure it’s the Higgs itself without further analysis.
“But in my view if it looks like the Higgs, smells like the Higgs and is exactly what we expected from the Higgs, then it’s the Higgs. Nobel prizes all round please,” he added.
Final confirmation that the discovery is the Higgs will come when there is enough data to show more of its characteristics, such as how it breaks down into other particles and how quickly.