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Rebecca Scott
Senior Media Officer
University of Melbourne
Mobile 0417164 791

Caroline Hamilton

Communications and Outreach Coordinator

ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale

Tel: 61 3 9035 3703

Mob: 0478 402 765

University of Melbourne physicists have contributed to the discovery of a particle consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, which could explain the origin of mass.

The discovery was announced last night via satellite from The European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN, Geneva to the University of Melbourne led global particle physics conference The 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

The preliminary data could be the last remaining piece of the Standard Model, the theory that explains the fundamental forces of nature.

CERN is the home of the Large Hadron Collider or LHC, a giant 27 km underground detector, designed to recreate conditions as they were shortly after the Big Bang and at the beginning of the universe where the discovery took place

The discovery was made after thousands of experiments were conducted at LHC, which was officially switched on in 2008.

Professor Geoff Taylor of the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Terascale said it was a discovery fundamental to understanding the universe and wonderful that it had occurred during the Australian based conference.

“This is a milestone for the physics community, and for human understanding of the fundamental laws that govern the universe. As scientific discoveries go, this is up there with finding a way to split the atom,” he said.

“Scientists have been working towards this for many years, and Australian groups have been part of this from the beginning so for the best part of 25 years. And to now be part of the reportage is a real privilege.

“For the announcement to be made here at the first global ICHEP conference in Australia, is a testament to the expertise in this country to attract the world’s best and to share in this exciting long awaited news.

For the past 25 years, particle physicists from the University of Melbourne’s School of Physics have been contributing to the research and development of a giant particle detector, called the ATLAS experiment, based at the Large Hadron Collider.

“When protons collide, they can generate heavy short-lived particles that simply do not exist in our calm environment. Our experimental particle physics group has played a key role in developing and installing the silicon detectors at the heart of the LHC detector for the ATLAS project,” Professor Taylor said.

They have also been involved in analysis of the data, largely due to the development of advanced grid and cloud computing, the basis of research behind the experiments.

Professor Taylor said the ARC Centre of Excellence in Particle Physics at the Terascale, hosted by the University of Melbourne and launched in 2011, is a collaboration of the best minds in particle physics in Australia.

“The Centre is greatly expanding Australia’s role in the largest pure science enterprise on planet Earth, the Large Hadron Collider,” Professor Taylor said.

“Our collective scientific effort will leave a legacy of enhanced national capability at the forefront of this intellectual endeavour.”

CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said scientists had reached a milestone in our understanding of nature.

“The discovery of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particles properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe,” he said.

Physicists from around the world have come to Melbourne to attend ICHEP this week from 4-11 July. It is the first time the conference has been held in the Southern Hemisphere