The search for the W boson

Signs of a W particle

12 January 1983

At the Topical Workshop on Proton-Antiproton Collider Physics in Rome from 12-14 January 1983, the first tentative evidence for observations of the W particle by the UA1 and UA2 collaborations is presented.

Out of the several thousand million collisions recorded, a handful give signals, which could correspond to the production of a W in the high-energy collision and its subsequent decay into an electron (or positron if the W is positively charged) and a neutrino

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The search for the W boson

Reaching the goal

20 January 1983

The tension at CERN becomes electric, culminating in two seminars, from Carlo Rubbia (for UA1) on 20 January 1983 and Luigi Di Lella (for UA2) the following afternoon, both with the CERN auditorium packed to the roof. UA1 announces six candidate W events; UA2 announces four. The presentations are still tentative and qualified.

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The search for the W boson

The discovery of a W particle

25 January 1983

In a press conference on 25 January, CERN announces news of the discovery of the W boson to the world. The UA2 team reserves judgment at this stage but further analysis soon convinces them. From their results both teams estimate the boson's mass at around 80 GeV, which is in excellent agreement with predictions from electroweak theory.

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The search for the W boson

Two CERN researchers, one Nobel prize

17 October 1984

The discovery of the W boson is so important that the two key physicists behind the discovery receive the Nobel prize in physics in 1984. The prize goes to Carlo Rubbia (pictured, left), instigator of the accelerator’s conversion and spokesperson of the UA1 experiment, and to Simon van der Meer (pictured, right), whose technology is vital to the collider’s operation.

The discovery of the W boson is a significant achievement in physics that further validates the electroweak theory. It also helps to secure the decision to build CERN’s next big accelerator, the Large Electron Positron Collider, whose job is to mass-produce Z and W bosons for further studies.

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The search for the W boson

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