media release

Researchers play key role in Higgs boson discovery

December 06, 2013

Dugan O’Neil, SFU Physics, 778.782.5623 (office) or 604.354.6507 (cell),   
Dixon Tam, SFU media relations, 778.782.8742,

Simon Fraser University researchers are part of the team of physicists working in Switzerland that have made another major discovery involving the Higgs boson, a basic building block of the universe.

Last week, SFU’s Dugan O’Neil, Noel Dawe, Michel Trottier-McDonald and Andres Tanasijczuk were among the scientists who found first evidence that the Higgs particle can decay to a pair of fermions called tau leptons, which are like heavy electrons.

The Higgs particle was discovered in 2012 and should be responsible for giving mass to fundamental particles. Without it, these particles have no mass.

But the Higgs particle, however, has only ever been observed interacting with other bosons. This means it has been proven to give mass to bosons but not to fermions, which are all of the particles that make up normal matter, like electrons.

There are fundamental questions about where mass comes from and how is it defined for something that is not made of something else. The significance of this discovery could help answer those queries.

“The short-term interest is purely scientific in that it helps us understand how our world works at the most basic level,” explains O’Neil, a SFU Physics professor. “However, the understanding of how the world works in the short term tends to lead to better lives for everyone in the long term. You just cannot predict how the advance will manifest itself.

“Einstein did not invent relativity to make GPS navigation work in your car, but 100 years later we rely on it every day.”

The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 was the breakthrough of the year in the science community. Since then, the focus has been on measuring its properties, seeing if the particle is exactly as predicted or is something different, something which would give new insight into nature.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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