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Did Higgs yield the most authors in a science study?

Two research papers on the hunt for the "God particle" pass muster with peers and yield an authors' list of Biblical proportions.

A view inside the ATLAS detector, part of the Large Hadron Collider.
ATLAS Experiment

Scientists who announced two months ago observations of the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle," have had their research published in the peer-reviewed Physics Letters B, along with an astounding list of thousands of authors.

More than 5,000 researchers around the world are said to have contributed to the landmark studies by the CMS and ATLAS teams working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). They said on July 4 the new boson they had observed was consistent with the Higgs, believed to be responsible for imparting all elementary particles in the universe with mass.

Two articles by the teams are each about 30 pages long. The combined author list takes up 19 pages of single-spaced text and appears to have roughly 6,000 names. Wouldn't that be fun to cite as a footnote in full?

An oft-cited mega-paper is "Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome," the landmark genetics study in the journal Nature, with some 2,900 authors in the full list. How they even agreed who would spell-check the research papers is beyond me.

Each Higgs study seems to have about 3,000 authors. Elsevier, which runs Physics Letters B host Science Direct, did not respond to a query about the exact number of authors, but the papers may have set a record.

"These papers present the first observations of a new particle discovered by two big experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson which has spanned many decades and has involved many experiments," CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela said in a CERN release.

"The discovery reported in these papers is a momentous step forward in fundamental knowledge," ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti was quoted as saying. "It is the culmination of more than 20 years of effort of the worldwide high-energy physics community to build and operate instruments of unprecedented technology, complexity and performance: the LHC accelerator and related experiments."

The papers are entitled "Observation of a new boson at a mass of 125 GeV with the CMS experiment at the LHC" and "Observation of a new particle in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC."

They're freely available at the Science Direct site, here and here.

The Higgs boson was first predicted in 1964 by three groups of scientists including Edinburgh-based particle physicist Peter Higgs. It validates theories developed about why elementary particles have mass, and its discovery is expected to open up new areas of physics.