Scientists close in on possible 'God particle'
Scientists say they have found signs of the elusive Higgs boson, known as the 'God particle', which is thought to give atoms their mass.
The elementary sub-atomic particle is believed to have played a vital role in the creation of the universe after the Big Bang.
The leaders of two independent experiments, Atlas and CMS, revealed their findings to a packed seminar at the CERN physics research centre near Geneva, where they have tried to find traces of the boson by smashing particles together at near light-speed in the Large Hadron Collider.
Fabiola Gianotti, the scientist in charge of the ATLAS experiment, says they will have to carry out more work over the next few months in the hope of obtaining conclusive evidence.
The scientists were quick to warn that their results have not yet reached the level of certainty that would let them claim a discovery.
Under what is known as the Standard Model of Physics, the boson is posited to have been the agent that gave mass and energy to matter after the creation of the universe 13.7 billion years ago - leading some to nickname it the "God particle".
While the boson's discovery would cement current knowledge about particles such as electrons and photons, results of work at CERN could also prove it does not exist, which would force physicists to rethink the Standard Model. Some eminent physicists such as Stephen Hawking believe it does not.
"If the Higgs observation is confirmed ... this really will be one of the discoveries of the century," said Themis Bowcock, professor of particle physics at Britain's Liverpool University.
"Physicists will have uncovered a keystone in the makeup of the universe ... whose influence we see and feel every day of our lives."