CERN physicists claim strongest evidence yet of Higgs boson - the "God particle"

A European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) scientist looks at computer screens showing traces on the Atlas experiment of the first protons injected in the Large Hadron Collider during its switch-on operation at the CERN's press center near Geneva Sept. 10, 2008.
AFP/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) GENEVA - One of the two independent teams at the world's biggest atom smasher said Wednesday it has found strong evidence of a new subatomic particle that looks like the one believed to give all matter in the universe size and shape.

Joe Incandela, leader of one of the teams known as CMS, told scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, that his team of 2,100 scientists has "observed" a new particle that is a boson — the same type of particle as the long-sought Higgs boson, popularly referred to as the "God particle."

Elusive Higgs boson hinted at in U.S. data
Higgs boson hunters get a nibble
Science world abuzz amid countdown to Higgs

He described the data as consistent with the elusive Higgs boson, whose existence was predicted decades ago to help explain how the universe works, but stopped short of definitively declaring discovery of the Higgs boson.

The second team was just starting to present its evidence before a packed auditorium, where scientists broke into applause intermittently.

Fabiola Gianotti, leader of the second team of some 3,000 scientists, known as ATLAS, said it also has observed some "beautiful" events in CERN's atom smasher, the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border.

It has been creating high-energy collisions of protons to investigate dark matter, antimatter and the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang.

(Below, watch CBS' "60 Minutes" visit the Large Hadron Collider for a story broadcast in 2008)

A trip inside the "Big Bang Machine"
"60 Minutes" video extra: The Big Bang
Video extra: A universal effort

The discovery of the Higgs boson won't change people's lives, but will help explain the underpinnings of the universe. It would confirm the standard model of physics that explains why fundamental particles have mass. Those particles are the building blocks of the universe. Mass is a trait that combines with gravity to give an object weight.

The phrase "God particle," coined by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, is used by laymen, not physicists, more as an explanation for how the wonders of the subatomic universe work than how it all started.