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Scientists at the CERN research centre near Geneva on Wednesday unveiled their latest findings in their search for the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle key to the formation of stars, planets and eventually life after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Some facts about the 'God particle':
What is the Higgs Boson?
The particle is theoretical, first posited in 1964 by six physicists, including Briton Peter Higgs. It is the last missing piece of the Standard Model, the theory that describes the basic building blocks of the universe. The other 11 particles predicted by the model have been found and finding the Higgs would validate the model. Ruling it out or finding something more exotic would force a rethink on how the universe is put together.
What is the Standard Model?
It is the best explanation physicists have of how the building blocks of the universe are put together. It describes 12 fundamental particles, governed by four basic forces. But the Standard Model only explains a small part of it. Scientists have spotted a gap between what we can see and what must be out there. That gap must be filled by something we don't fully understand, which they have dubbed 'dark matter'. Galaxies are also hurtling away from each other faster than the forces we know about suggest they should. This gap is filled by 'dark energy'. This poorly understood pair are believed to make up a whopping 96 per cent of the mass and energy of the cosmos. Confirming the Standard Model, or perhaps modifying it, would be a step towards a 'theory of everything' that encompasses dark matter, dark energy and the force of gravity, which the Standard Model does not explain.
How was the universe formed?
Scientists believe that in the first billionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was a gigantic soup of particles racing around at the speed of light without any mass to speak of. It was through their interaction with the Higgs field that they gained mass and eventually formed the universe.
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