Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 14:17 UK

God particle discovery 'likely'

Professor Peter Higgs
Professor Peter Higgs has retired from Edinburgh University

The Edinburgh scientist who gave his name to the Higgs Boson particle said it was "pretty likely" it would be found by the Big Bang experiment.

Professor Peter Higgs, 79, expressed confidence he would be proved right, 44 years after he proposed his theory.

Scientists hope the Large Hadron Collider operated by Cern will uncover the sought after particle, which is sometimes called the God Particle.

It is a theoretical explanation for the origin of mass in the Universe

It is also thought without the particle there would be no gravity.

But the particle - nicknamed the God Particle because it is thought to be so fundamental to the evolution of the universe - has not been discovered and to this day it remains a theory.

It wasn't a 'eureka' moment
Professor Peter Higgs

Asked whether he believed the God Particle would be uncovered, Prof Higgs said: "I think it's pretty likely.

"The way I put it is that if there isn't anything there, then it means I and a lot of other people no longer understand all the things we understand about these weak and electromagnetic interactions."

It was in 1964 that the scientist, now aged 79, carried out the work that eventually made his name. His theory has dominated the world of particle physics ever since.

Retired Prof Higgs returned to his working roots at Edinburgh University on Wednesday to give a briefing in the same street where he formulated his scientific theory 44 years ago.

Speaking in an office on Roxburgh Street, he said the idea gradually dawned on him over the course of a weekend.

"It wasn't a 'eureka' moment," he said.

"It was a gradual realisation that stored in a different part of my memory was something which helped me to understand how to solve what I was worrying about at that time.

"When I came back on the Monday to work here the first thing I did was go and check various other papers to see if my recollection was correct and it would help me."

Sticky treacle

Prof Higgs proposed a theory to explain how matter could acquire mass, which we perceive as weight.

The theory concerns a field, known as the Higgs field, that pervades the universe and can be thought of as being like treacle.

Particles are affected by the field as if they are wading through sticky treacle, making them sluggish.

Mass varies depending on how easily a particle can interact with the field.

He argued the invisible field should be associated with the particle now known as the Higgs Boson.

Prof Higgs said he believed it could be three years before the LHC produces answers about the Higgs Boson.

"I think it depends on how heavy the thing is. My understanding is that if it's heavier than most people expect, it'll be relatively easy to find."


SEE ALSO
'Big Bang' experiment starts well
10 Sep 08 |  Science/Nature

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