'God particle' search may have ended, with help from the U of M

With some help from the University of Minnesota, scientists have discovered a new particle that could aid in answering questions about what the universe is made of, what forces are at work within it, and what gives matter substance. 

Nuclear researchers announced earlier this week that they have observed a new particle that could be extremely important to scientific discovery. And physicists at the University of Minnesota have played a key role in the decades-long search for the particle, according to a statement by the university.

For more than 20 years, physicists have been preparing a search for the Higgs boson -- the theoretical particle that gives mass to the basic building blocks of matter, and the final missing ingredient of the Standard Model of particle physics. Because it could answer so many crucial questions for scientists, it has been nicknamed the "God particle."

But U of M physicist Roger Rusack, who's worked on the project for two decades, asks that we not call it that.

"The story goes that a guy [Leon Lederman, winner of the Nobel prize in physics] wrote a book about looking for this particle, and he called it the 'goddamn particle' because it was taking so long to find," Rusack says. "The publishers abbreviated it to the 'God particle' and I hate it."

The search for the Higgs boson picked up speed in 2008 with the completion of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's biggest and most powerful particle accelerator. The LHC smashes protons together at nearly the speed of light. The particles created by these collisions are then analyzed by physicists.

U of M researchers, grad students, and undergrads have been very involved in the experiment since 1993 and played a major role in the design and construction of the CMS detector, also used in these experiments.

Rusack says he and the U of M team are extremely excited about the "highly probable" discovery of the new particle, and that if it is indeed the Higgs boson, the next step is to continue taking data. Beyond that, it will be figuring out why the particle has the mass that it does.

In case you want to geek out and learn more about the science behind the Higgs boson and its possible discovery, here is a video:

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