New particle may unlock new discoveries, says Vatican astronomer
“It indicates that reality is deeper and more rich and strange than our everyday life,” U.S. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno told Catholic News Service.
When people go about their everyday business working or relaxing, they don’t think about the tiniest building blocks of physical matter, but “without these underlying little things, we wouldn’t be here,” he said.
Physicists working with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research laboratory in Geneva, announced July 4 that they were 99.999 percent certain they found evidence of a new particle that might be key to the structure of the universe and to understanding nature.
British physicist Peter Higgs first hypothesized the existence of the particle in the 1960s as the final missing element in a framework called the Standard Model, which explains how sub-atomic particles and forces interact.
Over the decades, with the help of increasingly powerful and sophisticated high-energy particle accelerators, scientists have been searching for what atoms are made up of, what the smaller components of atoms are made up of, what the nature of those smaller components is, and so on, Brother Consolmagno said.
But it wasn’t clear why some materials, such as protons and electrons, have mass and therefore are attracted to each other by gravity, while other materials, such as photons, have no mass, he said.
“Higgs, 50 years ago, worked out a model called the Standard Model, that would provide reasons for attraction and why there is mass,” the Jesuit said.
Higgs predicted that if a particle that produced the effect of mass existed, it should be “visible” after two atoms were smashed together at high enough speeds.
Experiments at CERN have revealed that “there is something that looks something like the Higgs-boson,” Brother Consolmagno said. The new data “will be used to test the Standard Model and how sub-atomic particles work,” he said.