GENEVA -- Scientists believe the "God particle" that might explain the underpinnings of the universe is real, and they are about to present their evidence to the world.
Physicists at the world's biggest atom smasher plan to announce Wednesday that they have nearly confirmed the primary plank of a theory that could shape the scientific understanding of all matter.
The idea is much like Isaac Newton's discovery of gravity: It was there all the time before he explained it. Now scientists know what the particle is and can put that knowledge to further use.
The focus of the excitement is the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that, if confirmed, could help explain why matter has mass, which combines with gravity to give an object weight.
Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, say they have compiled vast amounts of data that show the footprint and shadow of the particle, all but proving it exists, though it has never actually been glimpsed.
Two independent teams of physicists are cautious after decades of work and billions of dollars spent. They don't plan to use the word "discovery." They say they will come as close as possible to a "eureka" announcement without uttering a pronouncement as if from the scientific mountaintop.
"We've discovered something which is consistent with being a Higgs,"said British theoretical physicist John Ellis, a professor at King's College London who has worked at CERN since the 1970s.
The layman's term "God particle" was coined by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman.