GENEVA, SWITZERLAND (NEWS1130) – Physicists in Geneva, Switzerland believe they have found “the god particle,” a nickname given to the subatomic particle that gives every other particle in the universe its mass.

Its real name is Higgs boson and it’s deemed the so-called missing link in the standard model of physics.

Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, says it is one of the most important discoveries ever made.

“Some have said it is akin to Newton’s understanding of physics; it’s akin to just about the most basic and the most important understandings of physics there could be. It’s like opening the door to that last closet of ‘Hey, how does this all work – what’s it all about?’” says Pitts.

The hunt for the subatomic particle has taken decades.

A team of scientists, including some from the University of Toronto, have spent 18 months smashing protons together in a massive collider in Geneva. However, these heavy particles exist for just an instant before they decay into lighter particles.

Dozens of Canadian scientists and students are involved in the global ATLAS experiment at CERN.

UBC’s TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, has been a focal point for much of the Canadian involvement.

“The team has been working on this for more than 10 years with a steady strength of 150 to 200 people involved. That includes university faculty, scientists, engineers and technicians at TRIUMF, everyone from high school summer students to post-doctoral fellows. It’s been a national effort,” explains Dr. Tim Meyer with TRIUMF.

“We had a pyjama party, about 40 people from midnight to 3 a.m., with a toast of bubbly at the end of it as we watched the results announced live,” he adds.

“Finding this is both a validation and a completion of the model we have of how everything works in the world but it doesn’t explain everything we see in nature. So it really is actually confounding for the future,” he explains.

“There were some who hoped that this Higgs particle would be totally different than the model predicted. We are excited that we are completing the framework that works for everything we understand so far but it also kind of leaves us scratching our heads wondering what is actually going on with dark matter and dark energy that makes up [96 per cent] of the universe,” says Meyer.

“For scientists and students in Canada and around the world, that’s a really exciting place to be, to know a little bit and be excited about what’s next.”

The results are labelled preliminary and based on data collected in 2011 and 2012, with the 2012 data still under analysis. Publication of the analyses is expected around the end of July.