Atomic scientists at an international physics laboratory will announce evidence Wednesday of the "God particle," an elusive infinitisimal particle that could explain the origins of the universe, the Associated Press reports.
Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, will announce Wednesday they have discovered the "footprint" of the particle in experiments with the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, a 17-mile underground tunnel where atoms are smashed together to observe their smaller constituent particles.
The scientists say they still have not directly observed the "God particle," known as the Higgs boson, but have gathered data that suggests it exists.
The Higgs boson could explain why particles have the masses they do. Without it, current science doesn't really explain how mass works at its most fundamental level, says Rob Rosen, scientist at FermiLab, a particle physics lab similar to CERN based in Chicago.
Even seeing a "shadow" or "footprint" of the Higgs boson could change the understanding of how the world works and how it came to be, he says. Specifically, the Higgs boson could further understanding of the Big Bang, a giant explosion many scientists believe created the universe.
Unfortunately, the particle doesn't look much differenct from everyday physic processes, which makes it even harder to identify.
"At least a needle looks a heck of a lot different from a piece of straw," Rosen says. "What makes this difficult is the Higgs boson looks for the most part like every other piece of hay in the stack."
In December, the lab said it had 'tantalizing hints' of a 'Higgs-like object. Wednesday's announcements must be a step closer, as in actual significant evidence. Though even that doesn't mean we'll have a picture of the "God particle" anytime soon.
"They have a lifetime that is very short so you don't actually get a total picture of the particle itself," he says. "We can only infer it existed because we know what kind of particles it naturally decays into."
Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter.