The so-called "god particle," if found, would confirm the dominant theory of how matter attains mass.
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At a hotly anticipated conference this morning, CERN researchers announced that particle-acceleration experiments in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland had provided evidence of a never-before-seen particle consistent with the Higgs.
The data indicates a new particle with a mass between 125 and 126 GeV, or Gigaelectronvolts. That makes it far heavier than any other known particle, as scientists believe the Higgs boson to be.
Researchers have given the signs they've observed a certainty level of five sigma, which according to the BBC equates to "about a one-in-3.5 million chance that the signal they see would appear if there were no Higgs particle."
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While the results remain preliminary, a spokesman for one of the LHC's two research teams described the findings as "dramatic."
There was certainly excitement at today's announcement: according to the Guardian's live blog of the conference, the findings were greeted with a standing ovation, while Peter Higgs, the theoretical physicist who first proposed the existence of the boson that bears his name, had tears in his eyes.
The next step is to study the new particle's properties.
"We know it is a new boson. But we still have to prove definitively that it is the one that Higgs predicted," senior CERN physicist Oliver Buchmueller told Reuters.
That next phase of research, said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer, will in turn help "shed light on other mysteries of our universe."
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