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Higgs Boson: Experts Believe In 'God Particle'
Scientists believe they have discovered a new sub-atomic particle that could be the Higgs boson.
Experts at the Cern research centre near Geneva, Switzerland, are confident they have caught sight of the so-called 'God particle', which lends mass to matter and holds the universe together.
The Higgs boson theory - proposed by British physicist Peter Higgs in the 1960s - suggests the existence of an invisible force field and associated sub-atomic particle that permeates all things, working like glue to give form to stars, planets and even humans.
Without the Higgs particle, the universe would have remained like a soup, the theory says.
In December last year, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - the 'Big Bang' particle accelerator which recreates conditions a billionth of a second after the birth of the universe - revealed they had caught a first tantalising glimpse of a boson.
Since then they have sifted through vast quantities of data from innumerable high energy collisions in an effort to reduce the odds of being wrong.
Two independent teams, together made up of more than 5,000 scientists, said they have both "observed" a new boson.
Cern's director Rolf Heuer revealed: "We have now found the missing cornerstone of particle physics."
However, he tempered the announcement by adding scientists had not found the Higgs boson itself, but a new sub-atomic particle that acted in virtually the same manner as theorised.
"We have a discovery. We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson," Professor Heuer said.
Professor Higgs, currently at the University of Edinburgh, welcomed Cern's results, adding: "I never expected this to happen in my lifetime and shall be asking my family to put some champagne in the fridge."
At the LHC, scientists shoot two beams of protons - the "hearts" of atoms - at each other round 27km of circular tunnels at almost the speed of light.
When the protons smash together the enormous energies involved cause them to decay into an array of more fundamental particles. These may then decay further into yet more particles.
By following the decay patterns, scientists hope to see the "fingerprint" of the Higgs boson.
Physicists need the Higgs to plug a gaping hole in the "Standard Model", the theory that explains all the particles, forces and interactions making up the universe.