GENEVA (TheBlaze/AP) — If anything shows how careful scientists are with their words and confirming something to be as true as possible, it’s the hunt for the infamous Higgs boson, often referred to as the “God Particle.” Over the last few years in particular, scientists have been using words like “hint” and “preliminary,” among others, to describe what they think could be their finding of such a subatomic particle.
Now, the search is all but over for the Higgs boson, a particle that is thought be a crucial building block of the universe. Even still though, they’re using phrases like “strongly indicates” to describe their data suggesting the Higgs boson being found, because nothing is ever truly “proven” in science. As Satoshi Kanazawa explained the idea in a post for Psychology Today, “the currently accepted theory of a phenomenon is simply the best explanation for it among all available alternatives.” (Or see an even more recent post from Kanazawa explaining the idea of “scientific proof” here.)
Physicists announced Thursday they believe they have discovered the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.
The elusive Higgs boson was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang. The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the “God particle.”
The discovery would be a strong contender for the Nobel Prize. Last July, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, announced finding a particle they described as Higgs-like, but they stopped short of saying conclusively that it was the same particle or was some version of it.
Scientists have now finished going through the entire set of data.
“The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is,” said Joe Incandela, a physicist who heads one of the two main teams at CERN, each involving several thousand scientists.
Whether or not it is a Higgs boson is demonstrated by how it interacts with other particles and its quantum properties, CERN said in the statement. After checking, scientists said the data “strongly indicates that it is a Higgs boson.”
The results were announced in a statement by the Geneva-based CERN and released at a physics conference in the Italian Alps.
The atmosphere regarding this latest announcement, at least by taking a gauge from the conversation on Twitter, is in general excitement. But there are some who express fatigue at all the announcements regarding the particle and others are sarcastically pointing out what seems to be convenient timing of the announcement with the Roman Catholic Church recieving its new pope — Pope Francis –Wednesday. Still others are also noting how it is interesting that CERN would be able to find such a particle but seems to be having trouble keeping its website up, since they were experiencing technical difficulties Thursday:
— Craig Rothney (@rothneychild) March 14, 2013
— Aravindh Ravi (@giantfootyguy) March 14, 2013
Cern – Identifies the Higgs Boson but cant keep its website running
— Blaine Hancock (@BlaineHancock1) March 14, 2013
CERN’s atom smasher, the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider that lies beneath the Swiss-French border, has been creating high-energy collisions of protons to investigate how the universe came to be the way it is.
The particle’s existence helps confirm the theory that objects gain their size and shape when particles interact in an energy field with a key particle, the Higgs boson. The more they attract, so the theory goes, the bigger their mass will be.
- ‘Very, Very Preliminary Result’: CERN Scientists Tentatively Find Infamous ‘God Particle’
- Video Pop Quiz: Do Hipsters Know What the ‘God Particle’ Is? Their Answers Will Have You Laughing
- Did Physicists Really Find the God Particle This Time?
This story has been updated to change Psychological Science to Psychology Today.