The Higgs boson -- also known as the so-called “god particle” -- is more likely to be found in the lower energy ranges of the massive atom smasher being used to track it down, the team's leader said. The information is expected to be confirmed later in the day by the second team. The unveiling of the latest data has generated much buzz among researchers who hope that the particle, if it exists, can help explain many mysteries of the universe.
British physicist Peter Higgs theorized the particle’s existence more than 40 years ago to explain why atoms, and everything else in the universe, have weight.
Both of the research teams are involved with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva. CERN oversees the $10-billion Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border, a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel where high energy beams of protons are sent crashing into each other at incredible speeds.
Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian physicist with the team running what’s called the ATLAS experiment, said “the hottest region” is in lower energy ranges of the collider. She said there are indications of the Higgs’ existence and that with enough data it could be unambiguously discovered or ruled out next year.
Although it would be an enormous scientific breakthrough for the physics world if the Higgs boson was found, officials at CERN have ruled out making any such announcement this year.
The Higgs boson is, in theory, the particle that gives mass to all other fundamental particles. While its discovery would cement current knowledge about particles such as electrons and photons, results of work at CERN could also prove it does not exist, which would force physicists to rethink the Standard Model.
In the jargon, this level is described as 5 sigma, which would exclude the possibility that the results recorded by the ATLAS and CMS teams at CERN -- the 21-nation European Organization for Nuclear Research -- are a fluke.
As one scientist explained, that level of accuracy would equate to the 17th-century discoverer of gravity, Isaac Newton, sitting under his apple tree and a million apples one after another falling on his head without one missing.
Some leading scientists, including Briton Stephen Hawking, doubt that the tiny piece of matter that would be visible only as a trace on a computer screen is out there at all. But most scientists involved in sifting through vast amounts of data produced in multi-trillions of particle impacts in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) over the past 20 months seem sure that it is, in one form or another.
As is another Briton, physicist Peter Higgs, who conceived the idea of the boson -- a type of particle that carries force -- in the mid-1960s to explain why much of the matter produced by the Big Bang has mass, and can therefore coalesce.
“I find it difficult to imagine how the theory [the Standard Model] works without it,” he told the London monthly Prospect. Higgs, now 82 and seen as a Nobel prize contender, conceived of a mechanism that would fit into the Standard Model and allow particles to have mass -- which the model had previously failed to explain. The mechanism, he argued, was a medium -- since called the Higgs Field -- existing throughout the universe, which gave other particles mass as they passed through it and were brought together by the Higgs boson. Without this mechanism, a briefing paper by CERN explains, “the universe would be a very different place no ordinary matter as we know it, no chemistry, no biology, and no people.”