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'God Particle' Discoverer Dies


Nobel Prize-winning physicist Peter Higgs has died at age 94 following a short illness, the University of Edinburgh announced yesterday. Higgs, who was an emeritus professor at Edinburgh, is known for discovering the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle known colloquially as the “God particle.”  


In 1964, Higgs theorized the existence of an energy field and an accompanying chargeless particle that gives other particles their mass and exists throughout the universe (see explanation). For decades, physicists relied on the particle's existence to help explain quantum phenomena but could not detect it, leading one scientist to call it the “Goddamn Particle” (shortened to "God particle"). 


In 2012, physicists used the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to smash two beams of particles together at almost light speed, attempting to recreate conditions moments after the Big Bang (see how it works). The experiment—considered one of the most sophisticated in human history—detected the Higgs boson for the first time, validating Higgs’ theory.


Today, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN—which operates the LHC—continues to probe the foundations of particle theory, including a search for never-before-seen “ghost” particles.

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