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UTA Physicist Describes Implications of New Particle Discovery

Courtney Collins

Professors at the University of Texas at Arlington played a significant role in answering a decades old question, with major scientific implications.

The announcement of a new particle discovery was music to Dr. Andrew Brandt’s ears on July 4theven though the press conference originally aired at 2 a.m.

"It’s been 30 years or more that we’ve been searching for this particle at different accelerators, trying to pin down the missing piece of the puzzle," Brandt said.

The piece scientists at UTA and countless other facilities have been searching for is the Higgs boson, which is the reason everything in the universe has mass. This new particle is being called “Higgs-like" Brandt said we’re one to five years away from knowing for sure.

"It’s a very heavy particle, the heaviest boson that we’ve observed by more than a factor of 10, and it could be the Higgs Boson that provides the mass for all particles," he said.

UTA has been very involved in this process of discovery. Several professors were part of the experiments and the university’s massive computing center was also utilized.

Brandt says the find is major within the field of particle physics. And while the non-scientific community may not notice immediate, day-to-day change as a result, there’s limitless potential ahead.

"When early particle physicists found the electron within a few years, you had light bulbs, you had electricity. Similar things for when we understood magnetism, all the power plants use some basic magnetic properties to create electricity. And then understanding the nucleus and the atom gave us nuclear power," he said. "So now we’re understanding some of the fundamental ways that particles get mass, and who knows where that might lead?"

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.