UVic physics professor Michel Lefebvre stands near the under-construction Atlas detector in 2007

UVic scientists celebrate major discovery of new particle

The biggest science experiment in the history has yielded a new subatomic particle that could plug a big hole in the theory of matter.

The largest, most complex science experiment in the history of humanity has yielded a new subatomic particle that could plug a big hole in the fundamental theory of matter. Probably.

Scientists with the Large Hadron Collider announced on Wednesday that a blip in the data is indeed a new particle, one consistent with the much sought after Higgs boson.

University of Victoria physicist Michel Lefebvre watched the live-streamed press conference at midnight local time, and the news was even better than expected.

Lefebvre is one of several thousand scientists who collaborated on creating the building-sized Atlas detector, one of the two experiments at the LHC seeking signs of the Higgs by smashing protons together at near light speeds.

The competing experiment, called CMS, independently came up with the same outcome – a new particle with a mass of about 125 gigaelectron-volts.

“I didn’t know the other experiment had the same results. I found out (Wednesday) night,” Lefebvre said. “This is a historical event. This is a very exciting time. It’s about as important as the discovery of antimatter.

“The new particle is a breach in the wall that separates the unknown. This is an exciting time for fundamental research.”

The theoretical Higgs boson is the physical manifestation of a field that permeates the universe and gives particles their mass. Its existence will confirm the Standard Model of matter and how we understand the structure of the universe.

Lefebvre cautioned that a lot of work still needs to be done to study the new particle to confirm what they found is actually the Higgs.

“I’m willing to bet it’s not a Standard Model Higgs. I’m willing to bet a beer,” Lefebvre laughed. “I think it will be more complicated than that. It may have nothing to do with the Higgs. It’s consistent with the Higgs, but we’ve got to dot our i’s.”

Confirming the existence of a new particle itself was a monumental task involving decades of work to design the detectors and computing systems, and to get the $10-billion, 27-kilometre collider built.

Scientists have been crunching data from the LHC for two years – analyzing the endless spray of particles that emerge from proton-proton collisions.

Lefebvre said the chance that the new particle is a random blip of noise is less than one in a million. He likened it to the chances of seeing 20 heads in a row on a coin flip.

“You can never be sure 100 per cent, but there is less than one chance in a million,” he said. “That is the level of certitude for a new particle. Particle physicists are a pretty careful lot.”

Over the past 20 years, 25 UVic physicists and engineers have designed and built a number of critical components for the Atlas detector and for computational analysis, funded through the Atlas-Canada program.

“UVic played a big role and has been very supportive, and it’s wonderful Canada is a part of this,” Lefebvre said. “The future is very bright for physics.”

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Metchosin construction site closed for police investigation

Closure believed to be linked to something found at DND site

West Shore RCMP sees spike in car crashes in recent months

ICBC campaign puts onus on drivers to fix bad habits

Car fanatics get set for Langford’s Show and Shine

Hundreds of cars to line downtown streets Sunday

New 84-unit seniors housing in Saanich constructed to Built Green standards

Mount Doug Manor an example of Built Green on a big scale

Controlled blasting starting tonight at CFB Esquimalt

Residents may hear whistles and blasts weekly between now and Oct. 1

Happy birthday Boler: An anniversary gathering of the cutest campers in Winnipeg

Hundreds of the unique trailers in Winnipeg to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manitoba invention

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Kelowna’s crying judge refuses to pull herself from case

Judge Monica McParland won’t pull herself off of case.

Complaint coming about cattle prod use at B.C. rodeo

Fair reps investigate after Vancouver Humane Society pics show shocking device at bullriding event

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Publication ban lifted on details about Fredericton shooting that killed 4

Judge lifts publication ban on court documents related to the Fredericton shooting

Kim XO is Black Press Media’s fashionista

Starting Sept. 7, stylist Kim XO will host Fashion Fridays on the Life channel on Black Press Media

RCMP cleared after woman fatally overdoses on fentanyl

Charges not recommended after IIO says woman appears to have brought fentanyl into her cell

21% of people admit to being addicted to their phone: poll

Smartphone usage surpasses TV time in B.C. homes, a new survey suggests

Most Read