If it is anything, it is what Gian Giudice has been waiting for his entire scientific life. “We are not talking about a confirmation of an established theory, but about opening a door into an unknown and unexplored world,” says Giudice, a theoretical particle physicist based at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland.
That’s if it turns out to be anything. At the moment, all we have are hints emerging from the debris of collisions within CERN’s showpiece particle smasher, the Large Hadron Collider. But if those hints firm up in the course of the coming weeks and months, it could be the big one. Forget the Higgs, forget even gravitational waves: 2016 could go down as the year when a new picture of nature’s fundamental workings was unveiled.
The hopes spring from two “bumps” that have appeared independently, in the same place, in the latest data from the LHC’s two big detectors, ATLAS and CMS. They point to the existence of a particle that dwarfs even the Higgs boson, the giver-of-mass particle discovered at CERN in July 2012.
The Higgs was a milestone, but ultimately one that marked the end of a road. It was the last particle to be found of those predicted by the standard model of particle physics. This clutch of sophisticated equations matches every experimental result to date with exquisite precision, and explains the workings of three of the fundamental forces of nature: electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces.