Author Archives: gemma

Film still. Knightsbridge, London, looking East towards Hyde Park Corner, c1902

World’s first colour moving pictures discovered

Today, our sister museum, the National Media Museum, unveiled the earliest colour moving pictures ever made. These vivid images are now on show to the public for the first time in over a hundred years at the Museum in Bradford.

These films were made by photographer and inventor Edward Turner using a process he patented with his financial backer Frederick Lee in 1899. Experts at the Museum have dated the films to 1901/2, making these the earliest examples of colour moving pictures in existence.

Lee and Turner’s invention has always been regarded by film historians as a practical failure but it has now been ‘unlocked’ through digital technology, revealing the images produced by the process for the first time in over a hundred years. It’s also a story of young death and commercial intrigue in the earliest days of the film industry.

Film still. Knightsbridge, London, looking East towards Hyde Park Corner, c1902 courtesy of the National Media Museum/SSPL

Film still. Knightsbridge, London, looking East towards Hyde Park Corner, c1902 courtesy of the National Media Museum/SSPL

Find out more about this discovery on the National Media Museum blog

Jet Engine

There is an invention in all of us

We were joined recently in the Science Museum by renowned British inventor Trevor Bayliss OBE, who was keen to visit the Make it in Great Britain exhibition.

Inventing is Trevor’s life long passion, and after seeing a programme in 1991 about the spread of AIDS in Africa, he set about inventing a wind up radio. Three years later, his first working prototype ran for 14 minutes and it was featured on the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World programme. By 1996, the radio had been awarded the BBC Design Award for Best Product and Best Design, and in the same year, Trevor met both Her Majesty The Queen and Nelson Mandela.

Yet despite Trevor’s achievements, his view that “there is an invention in all of us” has not changed, and he dismisses the suggestion that to be an inventor you have to wear a white coat.

Jet Engine

As Trevor strolled around the exhibition he looked up at the Rolls Royce jet engine (pictured above), describing the legendary inventor Frank Whittle, as just “a young lad with a good idea”. Trevor explained that ideas do not have to be as complex as the jet engine or as ingenious as BEA’s unmanned aircraft, the demon, and that often it’s just down to luck, “you do not have to be a genius, often inventions are just pure chance.”

Before he left, Trevor told us that “art is pleasure, invention is treasure”, and we hope the exhibition has gone some way to showcase this belief by championing one the UK’s greatest assets, its manufacturing industry.

The Make it in Great Britain exhibition can be found on the first floor of the museum. The exhibition closes on Sunday 9th September.

Dance of DNA at Science Museum

Switch To A Different You?

By Dr Corrinne Burns, Assistant Content Developer

Do you look like your parents? Do you have your mother’s green eyes, or your father’s freckles? We’re so used to thinking of physical traits in terms of genes – genes for height, genes for eye colour, even genes for baldness. But new research reveals that your genes are only a tiny part of what makes you, you. In our new display case, Switch To A Different You? – the Science Museum explores the significance of a groundbreaking discovery.

Switch To A Different You?

Genes make up only around 2% of your DNA. So what’s the rest of it for? We used to think that most of our DNA was junk – but it isn’t. Scientists working on the Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements project – called ENCODE for short – have discovered that, in reality, our “junk” DNA is made up of millions of switches, which act to turn those few genes on and off. Your DNA is, in effect, a gigantic, dynamic, dancing switchboard.

What does this mean for science – and for our sense of identity? If our genes are such a small part of our DNA, then why do we look the way we do? How does our childhood environment influence the behaviour of our genetic switchboard? If we could live our life again, would we look very different? And how will the discovery of this vast genetic switchboard help us to understand – and maybe treat – genetic diseases?

The Museum is celebrating ENCODE’s groundbreaking discoveries in a unique way. Ling Lee, on the science news team here at the Museum, came up with the wonderful idea of visualising DNA replication via an aerial silk dance. So Ling, together with Ewan Birney, one of the ENCODE project leaders, worked with acrobat Michèle Lainé of Viva Aerial Dance to choreograph a spectacular (and scientifically accurate!) performance. Join us on the Who Am I gallery at 1.30 pm tomorrow, Thursday 6th September, to see the dance that Ling and Michele created – and to find out more about the science that inspired the display.

Dance of DNA at Science Museum

In Switch To A Different You?, we begin to explore the significance of ENCODE’s discoveries. We don’t have all the answers – this science is so new that we don’t yet know where it will lead us. But we want to know what you think. If you could live your life all over again, do you think you’d be the same person you are today?

Purpose-built fuel cell motorbike

Make it in Great Britain: an update from our exhibitors

Have you taken the chance to visit Make it in Great Britain yet? The exhibition celebrates the importance and success of British manufacturing and features some of the most exciting British innovations happening today. Halfway through, some of our exhibitors review their experiences:

Geoff Bryant, Head of R&D, Mars Chocolate UK
‘The exhibition has given us the chance to showcase our ‘bean to bar’ story which captures every stage of the chocolate making process. It shows the journey from the Ivory Coast cocoa farms through to the state of the art production line at our Slough factory which produces 2.5 million Mars bars every day.

It would be easy to miss the scientific expertise that goes into food manufacturing whilst we tuck into our favourite chocolate treats. But you would be hard pressed to find a more diverse group of scientists and innovators.

There is a common misconception that the jobs available in science aren’t applied or interesting – this couldn’t be further from the truth, particularly within the food and drink industry; a sector continuously looking for solutions to challenges with raw ingredients and improving the nutritional credentials of its products. In 2010 we reduced the saturated fat content in Mars bars by 15% while maintaining the same great taste. We couldn’t have done this without the dedication and expertise of our R&D team, whose scientific and technical skills are so important to continually pushing product innovation and formulation development.’

The Mars Factory

Intelligent Energy
‘It was a great to be chosen as one of the companies in the exhibition, representing the best of British manufacturing, one of the most dynamic and important sectors in the UK economy.

Why were we chosen? Well, we design and develop fuel cell technologies at our Loughborough Headquarters, and then work with our partners and customers across the globe to manufacture and integrate that technology into their products. Our fuel cell systems power everything from consumer electronics, homes and other buildings, to a wide range of vehicles including the ENV motorbike and our fuel cell electric London taxis.

Our award winning ENV, which is on display in the exhibition, is the world’s first purpose built fuel cell motorbike. We chose to exhibit the ENV, partly because it is a world first, but mainly because we think it is very possibly the best looking example of fuel cell technology ever made!’

Purpose-built fuel cell motorbike

The Green Roof Tile Company
As you stroll around Make it in Great Britain you are instantly struck by the iconic brands: Jaguar Land Rover, BAE Systems, McLaren, Rolls-Royce, but in amongst these giants of industry there are examples of the small, innovative companies that provide employment for the bulk of the 2.5 million people involved in the UK manufacturing sector.

We are one such business – The Green Roof Tile Company. Established in 2007, we have designed, developed, worried about, manufactured and commercialised Envirotile – a roofing system manufactured from plastic containing over 70% recycled material.

In developing the groundbreaking design for Envirotile, we enlisted the help of the Caparo Innovation Centre at the University of Wolverhampton. Key features of the product include: rain water channels to facilitate run-off; drip water channels prevent rain water ingress under the tile and strengthening ribs and controlled variations in material thickness provide rigidity to the tiles.

Furthermore, the market potential for Envirotile is considerable. The export market for traditional roof tiles is virtually non-existent because weight and fragility makes it difficult to export, whereas a single Envirotile is 80% lighter than a traditional concrete rooftile and is virtually unbreakable.’

Make it in Great Britain Exhibition

Make it in Great Britain ends on 9 September and is free to enter. It was developed in collaboration with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

Follow the exhibition on Twitter and on the Science Museum Facebook page


Super speedy sprint

By Dr Corrinne Burns, Assistant Content Developer

Reckon you could give Usain Bolt a run for his money? No, me neither. But with the help of scientists from Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Institute, we could at least achieve our own personal best.


Engineering Success

The Loughborough team, led by Dr Jon Roberts, are interested in how engineering know-how can be applied to the design of sports equipment. And as part of our Summer of Sport series of live events, they’re setting up a pop-up sports laboratory in the Antenna gallery.

So if you want to find out more about the technology behind running shoe design and construction, come along and chat to the team. You can even take part in real experiments – would you like to measure just how high you can jump? With a specialised bit of kit called a Force Plate, you can do just that.

And if you really do fancy seeing how you measure up against Bolt, you can time your speed on a five-metre running track. High-speed cameras will record your finish time – and you can even get a Photo Finish photograph to take away.

From Elite to High Street

Experts reckon that personalised sports footwear is the way to go, in terms of helping us perform at our best. The technology behind personalised footwear was originally developed fro elite athletes, but it’s now becoming more mainstream. From Elite to High Street, as Loughborough say.


Interested in finding out more? Come along to Antenna next week, and try out the technology for yourself.

Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet

Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet

By Roger Highfield

The one-ton Curiosity rover, suspended from the Sky Crane ‘rocket backpack’, touched down onto Mars first thing this morning to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation of the Gale Crater.

Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet

Many missions to Mars have failed, such as Britain’s ill fated Beagle 2 mission, a replica of which can be viewed in the Science Museum.

However, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried the six wheeled rover, succeeded in the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the nylon bridle cords and flight of the Sky Crane away from the landing site, according to the US space agency Nasa.

The most ambitious mission of its kind, and the largest ever to land on another planet, aims to help answer the question of whether there is life on Mars, though it will focus on finding the ingredients rather than life itself (not least because no one can quite agree on what life actually is)

In 1854, William Whewell, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, who popularized the word scientist, theorized that Mars had seas, land and possibly life forms. Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli speculated in his 1893 book, Life on Mars that there were channels on the surface (actually optical illusions created by the telescopes of the time)

The term use used was “canali” in Italian, meaning “channels” but the term was mistranslated into English as “canals”, which suggested an artificial construction and triggered much speculation. In our Cosmos & Culture gallery, a Mars globe by Antoniadi, 1896-99 shows surface details named by Schiaparelli in 1877.

Among the most fervent supporters of the artificial-canal hypothesis was the American astronomer Percival Lowell, who spent much of his life trying to prove the existence of intelligent life on the red planet. The search for life on Mars appeared to hit a dead end in 1976 when Viking landers touched down on the red planet and failed to detect activity.

There was a huge flurry of excitement a decade later, when Nasa thought it had found evidence of life in a Mars meteorite but doubts have since been cast on that finding, although meteorites may still hold Important clues.

Some still claim the Viking spacecraft may in fact have encountered signs of a life form however the debate will not end until there is direct evidence and Curiosity will search for conditions on the Red Planet that might enable microbial life to thrive, which can endure extreme conditions.

Al Chen, an engineer on the rover’s entry, descent and landing team, said the words that space scientists had been awaiting for a decade: “Touchdown confirmed.” Applause erupted after images arrived at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge. The rover itself tweeted an image of its shadow on @MarsCuriosity.

Cheering at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge

“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030′s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”

Previous missions such as Vikings I and II and the Mars Phoenix Lander used retrorockets to lower spacecraft all the way to the surface atop a legged lander. Others, such as Beagle 2, have used airbags. Neither method is feasible for a rover of this size.

Curiosity landed around 6.30am but it took almost 14 minutes for the news to reach Earth. It settled down near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles inside Gale Crater, after the use of parachute, heat shield, 76 explosive bolts and sky crane, an eight rocket jetpack attached to the rover. It was billed by Nasa as ‘seven minutes of terror.’

Remarkably, an image of the dramatic descent was captured by the Mars Reconnaissance orbiter and by an onboard camera, which ends by revealing the plumes of dust sent up when the Sky Crane went into action. See this composite video of the simulated and actual descent, plus the scenes in mission control.

Curiosity returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover. About two hours after landing it transmitted a higher resolution image of its new home. More images are anticipated as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms. For the latest images, check the mission multimedia gallery which includes the first colour image.

“Our Curiosity is talking to us from the surface of Mars,” said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project, and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives.”

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the earlier Nasa Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking the composition of rocks from a distance.

The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter and find pictures on the Nasa website.

Vince Cable, Business Secretary at Make it in Great Britain exhibition

Make it in Great Britain

By Mark Champkins, Science Museum Inventor in Residence

Britain has always been a nation at the forefront of global manufacturing. From the Industrial Revolution onwards we have been pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and seeking to be ever more innovative. The Make it in Great Britain Exhibition, here at the Science Museum, is a fantastic showcase of cutting edge UK manufacturing and the most ingenious of ideas.

Vince Cable, Business Secretary at Make it in Great Britain exhibition

I had the pleasure of being one of the judges for the “Challenge” competition and was thoroughly inspired by the lateral thinking, ingenuity and technical excellence of the entries.

The response to all the competition entries has been amazing. There are five categories and they will showcase their creations on a weekly basis. Some of the successful entries include a new technology which could offer relief to tinnitus sufferers, an eco-friendly alternative to everyday cement and a pushchair that can be folded down into a 32 litre rucksack. The exhibition, which runs until 7th September. will include the competition finalists alongside formula one cars, powerboats, jet aircraft, and a host of other fantastic exhibits.

Britain has a proud manufacturing heritage, and is responsible for developing world-beating new technology and production techniques. Manufacturing in the UK is endlessly creative, brilliantly practically, constantly evolving and generates £137 Billion for the UK economy which is significantly more than the Financial sector. We too often downplay and undervalue manufacturing’s importance but The Make it in Great Britain exhibition is an inspiring and timely reminder of just how good we are here in the UK.

Visit Make it in Great Britain at the Science Museum from today

Follow Make it in Great Britain and the Science Museum on Twitter to learn more about British manufacturing

A picture from Mick Jackson's memoir - My Running Hell’ - an everyman’s jogging memoir

Writer in residence Mick Jackson publishes a short memoir

Our Writer in Residence, Mick Jackson, has published a short memoir, ‘My Running Hell’ commissioned by the Museum as part of his residency and to tie in with the season of sport in London this summer.

Find out more about the memoir in Mick’s guest blog post and head along to Lates on Wednesday where he will be reading small excerpts

By Mick Jackson

I’m your typical middle-aged man: balding, bespectacled and with a bit of a beer-gut. There’s not a lot I can do about the first two, but I try to keep the beer-gut in check by running two or three times a week.

Running’s great – you get to patronize those friends of yours who do no exercise, plus you can get stuck into that great slab of Battenburg, safe in the knowledge that the same calories will be burnt off within seconds of pulling on your running shoes. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

I’ve been running since my teens, when I was actually built for running and if I need the physical benefits – cardio-vascular workout, etc – more these days, then I also need the mental benefits. After an hour or so shuffling along the Downs I can feel almost human.

A picture from Mick Jackson's memoir - My Running Hell’ - an everyman’s jogging memoir

So when the Science Museum was scouting around for ideas for a booklet to tie in with the Summer of Sport I thought that perhaps it was time to celebrate the everyday runners who, like me, may fall a little short of Elite standards, but whose heroism is marked by the fact that they manage to crawl out of bed on a Sunday morning and head out into the rain.

The booklet will be launched at the Science Museum Lates event on Wednesday, 25th July. The event is free. The booklet’s free. It’s going to involve a balding, bespectacled middle-aged man puffing and panting on a running machine. What’s not to like?

Follow Mick on Twitter and find out what other projects he is working on throughout his residency.

A Bersey taxi in one of the Royal parks

The surprisingly old story of London’s first ever electric taxi

By Selina Hurley, Assistant Curator of Medicine

Taking in the streets of London in 1897, you would have seen one of Walter Bersey’s electric taxis. Fast forward over 100 years later and you can see one of the few surviving examples in the Wellcome Wing as part of the Climate Changing Stories programme. We tend to think of electric cars as futuristic, especially in a bid to cut emissions but they have a much older history.

With a top speed of 9-12 mph, Walter Bersey’s taxis were the first self-propelled vehicles for hire on London’s roads. Cars on London’s roads got off to a slow start in Britain thanks to the “Red Flag Act” which stated that any vehicle other than a horse drawn must be preceded by a man carting a red flag as a warning to passers-by. Once repealed in November 1896, vehicles began to make their mark in Britain. The origins of the now annual London to Brighton road race have their roots in celebrating the repeal of the law.

Walter Bersey shared the ideas that there were great hopes for electricity. He said:
“There is no apparent limit to the hopes and expectations of the electric artisans… short [it] is the natural power which shall be the most intimate and effective of all man’s assets.”

A Bersey taxi in one of the Royal parks

A Bersey taxi in one of the Royal parks. Credit: Science Museum, London

Exhibited at a South Kensington motor show in 1896, 12 electric cabs, the Berseys first appeared on the road on 19 August 1897. When the taxis were first unveiled, they undertook the London-Brighton race. According to reports, the taxis could not complete the 60 mile journey and completed part of the race by train.

Rates were the same as horse drawn cabs. The cab could take two passengers and was fitted with electric lighting both inside and out. Electric illumination was not welcomed by all “for the comfort of people of a bashful disposition……[who felt] as conspicuous as if they were on the stage with the limelight.” The then Prince of Wales was said to have taken a taxi ride in a Bersey.

Each taxi was licensed by Scotland Yard under four conditions:

1. each vehicle was accompanied by a driver
2. drivers were capable of stopping the carriage on demand
3. the taxi could turn in a small space
4. be able to climb the steepest hill in London, Savoy Hill

The Bersey was known as the “Hummingbird” from the sound of the taxi and the yellow and black livery. Batteries were replaced using a hydraulic lifting system that took 2-3 minutes at the sole re-charging station in London. Electricity was expensive to generate so the company started producing their own at great expense.

However, after 6 months of use, the noise and vibration escalated. Vibrations damaged the delicate glass plates, the tyres wore out incredibly quickly given the 2 tonne weight of the cab. Breakdowns were frequent. Horse drawn cabs were often faster as well.

Two years after their debut the Bersey taxis disappeared from the roads. Taxis were not only vehicles Walter Bersey designed. He designed a range of private electric vehicles but none are know to have survived.

Higgs seminar

Higgs boson discovered

By Roger Highfield

The world’s most wanted subatomic particle, the Higgs, has been found, ending a quest that dates back decades.

Thought to give all other particles their mass, the existence of the particle was predicted by Peter Higgs, who was recently interviewed by the historian of science Graham Farmelo in preparation for a major new exhibition next year at the Science Museum, which Higgs himself plans to attend.

Though only one of those who predicted the existence of the particle in the 1960s, the modest emeritus professor from Edinburgh University is now synonymous with the quest. A small exhibit in the museum’s Antenna science news gallery is planned this week to mark the announcement today of the discovery of the Higgs boson by two teams, each consisting of 4000 scientists, at the CERN laboratory, Geneva, which operates the £5 billion Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator.

‘It is a powerful and optimistic day for science and a triumph for amazing patience and rational thinking,’ commented Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group.

‘It’s really an incredible thing it’s happened in my lifetime,’ said Higgs, who is in CERN.

There, the resulting splash of energy and particles is dissected by the ‘eyes’ of the machine, huge detectors – ALICE, LHCb, ATLAS and CMS – which reveal traces of new particles and phenomena.

The LHC is designed to answer the most profound questions about the universe and, being the most famous experiment on the planet, is going to be the subject of a new exhibition at the Science Museum next autumn, developed in collaboration with CERN.

Alison Boyle, Science Museum curator of modern physics, says that the forthcoming exhibition will include components of ATLAS and CMS, as well as pioneering explorations of the atom by JJ Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, James Chadwick, and others. She adds: ‘Discovery of the Higgs boson is a great success but there’s still lots more physics to do, and our exhibition will follow the LHC’s scientists and engineers as they explore even higher energies.’

Peter Higgs explains how the Large Hadron Collider works during a visit to Cotham School, Bristol, where he was once a pupil.

The history of physics is full of tantalising hints of the Higgs that could have been revolutionary, but then evaporated. This time, however, we have concluded the final chapter in the quest, involving 10,000 scientists and engineers from 100 countries.

Excitement about the Higgs has been building for the past six months explained Harry Cliff, the first Science Museum Fellow of Modern Science, who divides his time between the museum and the University of Cambridge team where he works on one of the experiments at CERN.

He explains the current discovery: “’Strictly speaking, it’s the Higgs field that gives most particles mass and the Higgs Boson is a wave travelling in that field – so finding the Higgs Boson is like seeing ripples in the Higgs field.’

Last December, rumours circulated regarding hints of the Higgs at energies of around 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), roughly 125 times the mass of a proton. But the catch was that this was around what scientists call a 3-sigma signal , meaning that there is a 0.13 per cent probability that the events happened by chance. This is the level at which particle physicists will only say they have “evidence” for a particle.

Earlier this week scientists sifting information from 500 trillion collisions at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Tevatron collider, east of Batavia, Illinois, said they had found their strongest indication to date for the particle.

A spokesman said: ‘Our data strongly point toward the existence of the Higgs boson, but it will take results from the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe to establish a discovery.’

In the rigorous world of particle physics, researchers wait to see a 5-sigma signal, which has only a 0.000028 per cent probability of happening by chance, before claiming that the Higgs has been truly discovered. Higgs himself told Graham Farmelo that he wouldn’t drink champagne to celebrate ‘unless and until they have a 5-sigma signal.’

Thanks to the results coming from the two experiments, ATLAS and CMS, today these preliminary findings appear to show a dramatic 5-sigma signal.

If this is indeed a new particle, then it must be a boson and it would be the heaviest such particle ever found.

Speaking at an event in Westminster to discuss the findings, the Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “This news from CERN is a breakthrough in world science. Professor Higgs of Edinburgh University has now secured his place in history.”

Prime Minister David Cameron later announced the news is ‘profoundly significant’.

The flurry of publicity today has come as a crowded seminar in CERN, introduced by Director General Rolf Heuer, was held to discuss the CMS and ATLAS 2012 data analysis, on the eve of the International Conference on High Energy Physics, Melbourne.

“We have reached a milestone in our understanding of nature,” said Heuer. “The observation of a particle consistent with the Higgs boson opens the way to more detailed studies, requiring larger statistics, which will pin down the new particle’s properties, and is likely to shed light on other mysteries of our universe.”

The Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model , a framework of theory developed in the late 20th century that describes the interactions of all known subatomic particles and forces, with the exception of gravity.

The Standard Model contains many other particles – such as quarks and W bosons – each of which has been found in the last four decades using vast particle colliders, but the Higgs had remained elusive.

The Higgs boson is critical to the Standard Model, because interacting with the Higgs field is what gives all the other particles their mass. Not finding it would have undermined our current understanding of the universe.

While discovery of the Higgs is a remarkable achievement, many researchers are also eager to hear all the details from the experiments, and how they compare, which may indicate that the Higgs boson has slightly different properties than those theoretically predicted.

Any deviations from theory could suggest the existence of heretofore-unknown physics beyond the Standard Model, including models such as supersymmetry, which posits a heavier partner to all known particles.

‘This discovery is just the start,’ I was told by John Womersley, Chief Executive of the STFC. “This could be the gateway to supersymmetry. Now on to dark matter, dark energy and the theory of everything”

Although most physicists call the particle the Higgs boson, one Nobel laureate gave it the grandiose title of the “God particle”, after his publishers refused to let him call his book “The Goddam Particle”: everyone agrees that it is, without doubt, the slipperiest particle of physics.

Nima Arkani-Hamed, a leading theoretical physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, has bet a year’s salary the Higgs will be found at the LHC, and plans to talk about the quest next year at the Science Museum. Although the world’s most famous scientist, Prof Stephen Hawking, has today lost a $100 bet he made against the discovery, he says that Higgs deserves the Nobel prize.

Higgs, who refuses to gamble, told me just before the LHC powered up that he would have been puzzled and surprised if the LHC had failed in its particle quest. “If I’m wrong, I’ll be rather sad. If it is not found, I no longer understand what I think I understand.”

When he walked into the crowded CERN seminar today in Geneva, there was a touching round of applause. After a wait of half a century, he is at long last able to celebrate his insight into the mystery of mass with a glass of champagne.