Discovery of long-sought particle

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)announced on July 4 that scientists at the international organization have found a new subatomic particle that could be the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle that could explain the origin of mass.

The apparent discovery of the Higgs boson fills a hole in the Standard Model of particle physics for investigating the ultimate force and matter in our universe. While it represents a monumental achievement in particle physics, it should be heralded as the beginning of new research that will lead to a deeper understanding of the origin and secrets of the universe.

The Standard Model predicted the existence of 18 kinds of particles. The Higgs boson was the last of these particles to be discovered. Scientists around the world have spent more than 40 years seeking to discover it. Two international teams of some 6,000 scientists, including Japanese researchers, made the discovery by using the Large Hadron Collider, a 27-km circumference particle accelerator, which is buried underground and located on the border of France and Switzerland.

In 1964, British scientist Peter Higgs and others first hypothesized the concept of the boson in question on the basis of the theory of “spontaneous broken symmetry in subatomic physics” developed by Japanese-born American physicist Yoichiro Nambu, who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics 2008 with Japanese physicists Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa.

The particles discovered before the Higgs boson are classified into two types — one forming matter and the other conveying force. The Higgs boson does not belong to either type.

It is theorized that soon after the universe was formed 13.7 billion years ago by the Big Bang, Higgs bosons filled the space and clung to other weightless particles moving at the speed of light. The latter is thought to have acquired mass through this interaction.

It is further theorized that particles which acquired mass combined with each other, forming such particles as protons and neutrons and eventually leading to the formation of atoms.

Even with the discovery at CERN, many questions remain. Nothing is known about the Higgs boson except that it has mass. It is still not known whether there is only one type of Higgs boson.

Observable matter accounts for only 4 percent of the universe. Little is known about dark matter, which accounts for 23 percent of the universe, and dark energy, which account for more.

To broaden human knowledge of the universe, more research on the Higgs boson is necessary. The international community is pushing a joint project to construct a more powerful, 30-to-50-km-long International Linear Collider.

Given current financial constraints, countries involved should endeavor to construct it as economically as possible.