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Caltech Nerds Discover Key to Universe, Higgs Boson

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Thu, Jul 5, 2012 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge A simulated particle collision that would prove Higgs boson exists.
  • A simulated particle collision that would prove Higgs boson exists.
They might not get the chicks (or studs), but nerds might have just figured out the key to the universe.

While you were gargling beer and lighting streamers in your pants over the holiday, a global consortium of scientists was celebrating over juice boxes: They might have discovered the long-predicted Higgs boson particle, a key to the universe's existence and the holy grail of contemporary physics.

A contingent of academics from right here in Southern California took part in the discovery:

Watch The Higgs Particle Matters on PBS. See more from NOVA.

About 40 Caltech scientists were members of the geek squad of scientific superheros. (See a photo of how physicists gets down after a big discovery here; yeah, it's like a rap video has come to life). Caltech physics professor Harvey Newman said in a statement:

This is a momentous time in the history of particle physics and in scientific exploration--the implications are profound. This is experimental science at its best.

The academics have been working at the European Center for Nuclear Research's Large Hadron Collider in Geneva to figure this out. So what is the Higgs boson?

In 1968 British scientist Peter Higgs theorized that space was not a free-for-all of nothingness but rather a place in which particles rubbed shoulders like clubbers at Avalon Hollywood on a Saturday night.

Some of them would stick to each other and, you know, end up having breakfast together. That, in turn, suggests mass, without which we'd have no matter, no universe, no planets, no life.

In order to prove that this is the case, scientists have been working at the collider to essentially try to crash nothingness into nothingness -- to recreate the early days of space and the creation of the universe.

If Higgs was right, out of nothing would come something -- Higgs boson, a little baby "God Particle."

And it happened. Sort of. Caltech states that it's not a 100 percent lock just yet:

The international team of scientists and engineers--which includes a large contingent from Caltech, led by Newman and Maria Spiropulu, professor of physics--says it needs more data to determine for certain if the particle they've discovered is indeed the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard Model, the theory that describes how all particles interact. The results so far, however, show that it has many of the properties expected for such a particle.

Caltech physics professor Maria Spiropulu:

Even these early results give us important hints as to how mass in the universe came to be.

Fascinating. Now get back to your beer.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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