Brad Cox Photo by Dan Addison

UVA physics professor Brad Cox and a team of international scientists may be closing in on what many believe to be the origin of mass: a subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, the subject of 50 years of scientific searching. “This is a very exciting time for those of us working at the Large Hadron Collider,” says Cox, principal investigator for the University’s compact muon solenoid detector at the European research center. “We are perhaps seeing the first evidence for the Higgs particle.” Still, Cox says he and other scientists “do not want to get ahead of ourselves.”

Using a 17-mile accelerator and high-energy proton beams, scientists dismantle protons into smaller subatomic particles. Cox cannot be certain that one of those particles is the Higgs boson. Such a particle would be delicate and run the risk of a quick disintegration into smaller pieces.

Sometimes called “the God particle,” it is believed to give mass to every other particle in existence and may be the underlying basis of matter.