Glasgow scientists celebrate latest development in search for Higgs boson

Scientists from the University of Glasgow working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are celebrating the observation of a new particle, consistent with being the elusive Higgs boson.

Thirty-five academics, researchers, technicians, and postgraduate students from the University are part of the ATLAS Experiment, one of the two teams that today (4 July 2012) announced that the search for the Higgs boson has yielded a significant signal.

Searching for the Higgs boson has been one of the highest priorities for particle physics.

Dr Craig Buttar, Reader in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, said: “Today we have reached a very significant milestone for physics: the observation of a new particle at the Large Hadron Collider. 

“Today's results build on the tantalising hints we saw at the end of 2011. The LHC has met all of this year’s targets, doubling the intensity of the beams. Adding all this year’s data to the search has produced a strong signal. This observation is a great step forward as it is the first indication of the Higgs boson, which is a critical part of the Standard Model, the theory that describes our understanding of nature at the sub-atomic scale.”

The result follows twenty years of design, construction, and operation of the ATLAS experiment in which Glasgow scientists have been involved from the beginning. 

Professor Val O'Shea said: “The ATLAS detector performance has been even better than in 2011, despite the harsh environment with twice as many simultaneous interactions as there were last year.” 

Analysing the data from the Large Hadron Collider requires vast computer processing power. 

Professor Dave Britton, University of Glasgow and Project Leader of the GridPP team, which provides computing for particle physics throughout the UK, said: “I am delighted by the performance of the UK as part of the worldwide LHC Computing Grid, which enabled the processing of vast quantities of data in an astonishingly short time: the last data that ATLAS included in these analyses was recorded less than a week previously.” 

Once the data is collected and processed, physicists analyse it in order to make the final scientific measurements. One of the Glasgow contributions is in combining results from all of the different ways a Higgs boson can decay.

Professor Tony Doyle explained: “Higgs bosons are very short-lived and can decay in many different ways. We rely on observing the particles they decay into rather than the Higgs itself. Multiple independent measurements are pointing consistently to a new particle, and when they are all put together we get the significant result that was presented today. The 2011 data was like Apollo 10 – the technologies required to find the one in ten billion events corresponding to production of the Higgs boson were fully deployed and tested.  In 2012 we launched Apollo 11 and now ‘the Eagle has landed’.”

Physicists are interpreting today's results as the first sighting of the Higgs boson, as needed by the 'Standard Model': the theory underlying particle physics. However, it will take more data before we can confirm the nature of the new particle, and whether it is indeed the Standard Model Higgs boson first put forward by Peter Higgs in 1964. 

Dr Rick St Denis, Senior Lecturer, said: “The mass of the Higgs happens to be just right for a rich and complex set of new physics and also makes direct connections with gravity, the force usually associated with mass. It begs to have its nature explored.” 

Dr Aidan Robson, Lecturer, added: “Our challenge now is to accumulate many more Higgs boson candidates so that we can make precise measurements of its properties. These will let us probe the limits of our understanding of physics, and address the biggest questions of how the universe works at a fundamental level.”

For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email


First published: 4 July 2012

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