Physicists elated at what they believe is their discovery of the Higgs boson particle have been shocked to learn that a British pensioner couple may have beaten them to it.
The Higgs boson, commonly referred to as the “God particle”, is a sub-atomic particle believed to have given mass and energy to matter after the Big Bang.
Scientists have been working at the CERN research facility in Switzerland to find traces of the particle. Their work has involved smashing particles together at near light-speed in the Large Hadron Collider.
Yesterday project staff announced that they had found traces of what could be the Higgs boson.
But Doris Bingle of Leighton Buzzard, 74, has told the BBC that she and husband Norman discovered the Higgs boson three years ago while tidying their attic.
“We inherited the house from Norman’s mother about ten years ago,” explained Mrs Bingle.
“We knew the attic was full of boxes of old photos and papers, and about three years ago we finally got around to sorting them out.”
Mrs Bingle said she found the Higgs boson particles in a box of old papers.
“The box was full of all sorts of old rubbish. Letters, manuscripts and the like. I found some tatty old handwritten manuscript with the words ‘Love’s Labours Won’ on the front and I remember asking Norman what we should do with it. We finally agreed to throw it in the rubbish, but just as I went to throw it in the bin something fell out from between the pages.”
Mrs Bingle said she was stunned by what she found.
“I said to Norman ‘oh, that’s one of them Higgs boson particle things, that is!’ There it was, as clear as day, lying on the floor of our attic. Well, we could hardly believe our eyes!”
The couple searched further and found five more particles hidden between the pages of the old manuscript.
Mrs Bingle’s husband Norman said the couple then had a debate about what the particles might be.
“They looked more like neutrinos to me,” said Mr Bingle.
“I said ‘throw them away, dear, they’re of no use to us.’ But she wouldn’t. Doris is a terrible one for hoarding, you see, so we wrapped them up in an ugly old drawing from a man called Picasso that my Mum used to know, and then forgot about the whole thing for three years.”
The particles found by the Bingles were positively identified last month during filming of an episode of Antiques Roadshow.
“They were making a show just down the road, and we remembered the particles and wondered if they might be worth something,” said Mrs Bingle.
“We spoke to the man at the Early 21st Century Atomic Physics table, and he confirmed they were Higgs boson particles, just as I first thought.”
“And she’s been giving me grief about it ever since,” added Mr Bingle with a sigh. “I don’t know how we’ll afford the insurance.”
A spokesperson for the CERN research facility confirmed today that the Bingles had been first to discover the Higgs boson.
“Despite investing billions of dollars into this project, it appears we have been beaten to it by a pair of pensioners,” said Dr Roy Akemund from CERN.
“We have been in contact with the British couple and have agreed that the particle should be renamed the Bingle in honour of their discovery.
“On a personal note, the fact that I have wasted the last thirty years of my life searching for something that was sitting in an attic in Leighton Buzzard is a bitter pill to swallow.
“I never even wanted to be a physicist, but my father, who was also a physicist, told me I had to take over the family business. That was back when every village had its resident physicist who was regarded as an upstanding and respected member of the community.
“How times have changed! Gone now is the little village physics shop where you could while away a summer’s afternoon chatting to a customer about atmospheric pressure and the likelihood of liquid precipitation while your prepared her weekly order of quantum electrodynamics.
“Nowadays all the physicists are crammed into vast and soulless universities and research institutes. At CERN alone there are thousands of us. We are an army of little ants scurrying from one experiment to the next.
“Is that any kind of life for a man who as a boy dreamed of a career in Irish folk dance?”