For 2012, their top pick was the long-anticipated confirmation of the existence of the so-called "God particle," which is believed to be a building block of the universe.
Science breakthough of 2012
The confirmation of the existence of a sub-atomic particle known as the Higgs boson was named breakthrough of the year by the prestigious Science magazine. The long-sought-after particle - believed to impart mass to all other matter in the universe - was made by researchers at the CERN particle physics lab near Geneva, using the $5.5 billion atom smasher called the Large Hadron Collider. In a podcast interview on the magazine’s website, Science deputy news editor Robert Coontz said the discovery fills an important gap in our understanding of the physical structure of the universe. “The Higgs boson is a fundamental particle that completes physicists’ standard model, which describes all the fundamental particles and the forces with which they interact.”
Researchers at the CERN physics lab near Geneva, used the $5.5 billion atom smasher, called the Large Hadron Collider, to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson particle.
Coontz said the discovery, first hypothesized by physicist Peter Higgs 40 years ago, may spark a new round of discoveries in particle physics. “That’s what the scientists at CERN are going to be looking for," he said, "that beyond the standard model lies this theory; one of them is called ‘super symmetry’ in which every particle in the standard model has another particle that hasn’t been discovered yet.”
Matter and anti-matter
Another major breakthrough listed by Science was further proving the existence of so-called anti-matter particles which annihilate themselves. These elusive, short-lived particles may have practical applications in information technology, and the development of the so-called quantum computer. “Computers that are based on things called qubits instead of bits," Coontz said. "So, it could well be that these will turn out to be the key to these super-duper computers unlike anything else we have, and that will be a breakthrough of the year, if it happens. This year all they’ve got is quasi particles that have these properties.” Quantum computers would be vastly more efficient at storing and processing data than today’s silicon-chip computers, according to Coontz.