05.07.2012 - Corporate Web Services

A journey into the deepest laws of nature

© CERN - This track is an example of simulated data of a decay path of the Higgs boson that may be observed at the LHC when it starts taking data in 2008.

Have scientists identified the final piece of the puzzle for understanding how the universe works? Today, the CERN, which UNESCO helped to establish, announced the historic discovery of a new subatomic particle that behaves much like the elusive Higgs boson, the hypothetical particle predicted to help matter acquire mass.

Experiments known as ATLAS & CMS allowed the CERN to observe the new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV, with 99.9999% certainty. It is still too early to determine if this “Higgs-like” boson is the one predicted by the Standard Model, the prevailing theory of particle physics, or if it points to new paths beyond the Standard Model, redefining our knowledge of the physical world. "This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found,” affirms CMS experiment spokesman Joe Incandela, “The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks."

UNESCO’s specialized institute, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), collaborated with the CERN to accomplish this exciting scientific milestone. ICTP & the University of Udine were jointly involved in the ATLAS experiment that sought for the Higgs boson by examining the debris of particle collisions generated in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The Higgs boson decays too fast to detect directly, but decays into particles similar to those left behind by the decay of a top quark anti-top quark pair. The ATLAS researchers measure detailed properties of processes like these to screen the "background" data that gets in the way while hunting for the Higgs.

ICTP physicist Bobby Acharya, who leads ICTP's paticipation in the ATLAS experiment, is thinking ahead excitedly: "Now that we know a new particle is there, we will study its properties in more details. It probably is the Higgs, which represents the end to a search that has gone on for decades to find the missing piece of the Standard Model puzzle. For ICTP this is an incredibly important result given the fundamental role that Abdus Salam played in the development of the Standard Model of Particle Physics."

A more complete picture of today’s observations will emerge later this year after the LHC provides the experiments with more data. Positive identification of the new particle’s characteristics will take considerable time and data, every bit worth our journey into a new understanding of the deepest laws of nature. 


The idea of establishing a European Council for Nuclear Research was raised in 1950 at the fifth session of the UNESCO General Conference, held in Florence, Italy. It was established in 1954 and later became the European Organization for Nuclear Research, while keeping its historical acronym: CERN.

While CERN places its scientific expertise at UNESCO’s disposal under SESAME and other initiatives, such as virtual libraries in African universities and teacher training, UNESCO’s International Basic Sciences Programme (IBSP) offers CERN a framework for cooperation with researchers from countries that are not CERN members. 

ICTP, UNESCO’s specialized institute for physics

The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) is a UNESCO Category 1 Institute, meaning that is is an integral part of UNESCO.

For more than 45 years, ICTP has been a driving force behind global efforts to advance scientific expertise in the developing world. Founded in 1964 by the late Nobel Laureate Abdus Salam, ICTP seeks to accomplish its mandate by providing scientists from developing countries with the continuing education and skills that they need to enjoy long and productive careers. The Centre operates under a tripartite agreement with the Government of Italy, UNESCO and the IAEA.

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