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HIGGS BOSON/ Only the beginning of the adventure

CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs boson particle, which may be responsible for the creation of mass in the universe. MARIO GARGANTINI comments on the questions raised by this event.

CERN LHC  (Infophoto) CERN LHC (Infophoto)

CERN announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson. The new particle exists, the reliability is high, but what exactly it is has yet to be discovered. This is the initial report of a day that, in any case, will be historical for physics and all of science. It is a day that saw the scientific community glued to the webcast for the seminar held at CERN in Geneva by the American Joe Incandela and the Italian Fabiola Gianotti, the spokesmen for CMS and ATLAS, two of the major Large Hadron Collider experiments.

All the ingredients for a great scientific story are there, in this event that could go down in history as the discovery of the Higgs boson, starting from the name, a typical British family name, which is certainly not familiar. The term boson indicates a type of particle other than the more famous materials, such as electrons and protons, and which is responsible for how the material interacts or, as in the case of the Higgs boson, for the very existence of the mass of everything there is in the universe.

The surname is that of the British scientist Peter Higgs, now 83 years old, who first hypothesized, nearly half a century ago, the existence of this particle and who flew to Geneva yesterday, where he received two warm applauses, at his entrance into the room and at the end of the seminar. It was just a pre-flight, however, in view of the even more exciting one he might take next December to Stockholm for the receipt of the most coveted trophy of all scientists.

If he will arrive in the Swedish capital to receive the Nobel, it will not be due to just his intuition and his ability to theorize. This is the second aspect of the story. The long hunt for the particle, improperly called the “God particle”, was a huge collective enterprise, made possible by this colossal institution, CERN, and the work of thousands of researchers around the world. CERN cannot really be called a laboratory, but rather a set of groups, significantly called “collaborations” that, in Geneva as well as in several universities and centers everywhere, combine their experimental geniality and passion for knowledge to try to get a clearer and clearer picture of the nature that surrounds us, at the microscopic and macroscopic level. The results announced today were made possible thanks to the extraordinary characteristics of the LHC, which worked beautifully and has produced “stellar” performances over the last two years, as Incandela said, obtaining collisions with a “great luminosity” Gianotti added.