Physicists said Wednesday they had discovered a subatomic particle that looks like the Higgs boson, a potential key to understanding why elementary particles have mass and indeed to the existence of diversity and life in the universe. ‘‘I think we have it,’’ Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director general of CERN, said in an interview from his office outside Geneva, calling the discovery ‘‘a historic milestone.’’ His words signaled what is probably the beginning of the end for one of the longest, most expensive searches in the history of science. If scientists are lucky, the discovery could lead to a new understanding of how the universe began.
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