UVic physics professor Michel Lefebvre stands near the under-construction Atlas detector in 2007

UVic physics professor Michel Lefebvre stands near the under-construction Atlas detector in 2007

UVic scientists celebrate major discovery of new particle

The biggest science experiment in the history has yielded a new subatomic particle that could plug a big hole in the theory of matter.

The largest, most complex science experiment in the history of humanity has yielded a new subatomic particle that could plug a big hole in the fundamental theory of matter. Probably.

Scientists with the Large Hadron Collider announced on Wednesday that a blip in the data is indeed a new particle, one consistent with the much sought after Higgs boson.

University of Victoria physicist Michel Lefebvre watched the live-streamed press conference at midnight local time, and the news was even better than expected.

Lefebvre is one of several thousand scientists who collaborated on creating the building-sized Atlas detector, one of the two experiments at the LHC seeking signs of the Higgs by smashing protons together at near light speeds.

The competing experiment, called CMS, independently came up with the same outcome – a new particle with a mass of about 125 gigaelectron-volts.

“I didn’t know the other experiment had the same results. I found out (Wednesday) night,” Lefebvre said. “This is a historical event. This is a very exciting time. It’s about as important as the discovery of antimatter.

“The new particle is a breach in the wall that separates the unknown. This is an exciting time for fundamental research.”

The theoretical Higgs boson is the physical manifestation of a field that permeates the universe and gives particles their mass. Its existence will confirm the Standard Model of matter and how we understand the structure of the universe.

Lefebvre cautioned that a lot of work still needs to be done to study the new particle to confirm what they found is actually the Higgs.

“I’m willing to bet it’s not a Standard Model Higgs. I’m willing to bet a beer,” Lefebvre laughed. “I think it will be more complicated than that. It may have nothing to do with the Higgs. It’s consistent with the Higgs, but we’ve got to dot our i’s.”

Confirming the existence of a new particle itself was a monumental task involving decades of work to design the detectors and computing systems, and to get the $10-billion, 27-kilometre collider built.

Scientists have been crunching data from the LHC for two years – analyzing the endless spray of particles that emerge from proton-proton collisions.

Lefebvre said the chance that the new particle is a random blip of noise is less than one in a million. He likened it to the chances of seeing 20 heads in a row on a coin flip.

“You can never be sure 100 per cent, but there is less than one chance in a million,” he said. “That is the level of certitude for a new particle. Particle physicists are a pretty careful lot.”

Over the past 20 years, 25 UVic physicists and engineers have designed and built a number of critical components for the Atlas detector and for computational analysis, funded through the Atlas-Canada program.

“UVic played a big role and has been very supportive, and it’s wonderful Canada is a part of this,” Lefebvre said. “The future is very bright for physics.”

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read