In 2012, when most of the UK was gearing up for the London Olympics, strange words started to enter our vocabulary. Terms such as “Higgs boson” and “Large Hadron Collider (LHC)” were hitting the mainstream headlines and CERN, a European particle physics research centre based in a north-west suburb of Geneva in Switzerland, was suddenly all the rage.
On 4 July that year, two experiments had led to the discovery of the Higgs boson, or “God Particle” as it was dubbed – a discovery that saw theoretical physicists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert receive the Nobel Prize for physics a year later. It was CERN’s gold medal moment, but as is the case with the athletes that were about to embark on their own voyages of discovery, a lot of the hard work that goes into such high-profile successes is unseen. It had taken decades of research and experimentation to reach this point, and it wasn’t all down to the work of the physicists.