November 25, 2011
CERN Narrows Search For Higgs Boson
The search for the elusive particle believed to help form the universe following the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago has been narrowed down to a specific location on the mass spectrum, and researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) should either find it -- or definitively prove that it doesn't exist -- sometime next year.
On Thursday, CERN researcher James Gilles told Robert Evans of Reuters that the "high mass region" of the mass spectrum "has now been virtually ruled out" in the search for the Higgs boson. However, Gilles, a representative of the 21-country, Geneva-based research group searching for the particle said that "it could still be anywhere in the 114-141" giga-electron volts (GeV) range.
Using their Large Hadron Collider (LHC), experts at CERN -- as well as those from the no longer functional Tevatron at Fermilab in the United States -- have searched for the elusive boson (named in honor of British scientist Peter Higgs, who had predicted its existence some 40 years ago) at ranges of up to 476 GeV.
"The latest Higgs findings were compiled jointly by two usually competing LHC research teams, ATLAS and CMS, and Gillies said both were working hard to try to complete analysis of data from the collider gathered up to the start of November," Evans said, adding that "any concrete sign of the Higgs" would be reported during a mid-December meeting of CERN's ruling council.
In a separate interview with Alexander Stirn of PhysOrg.com, Dr. Siegfried Bethke, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Physics in Munich said that, despite the LHC registering over one thousand billion collisions over a two-year period, the collider "has not yet been able to discover previously unknown particles," which he referred to as "slightly disappointing, but“¦ not unexpected."
"We knew right from the start that we would need a huge number of collisions for convincing statistics. This is why the LHC will operate not only for two years, but for ten or 20," Dr. Bethke said. "Secretly, we had nonetheless hoped that nature would have a surprise in store for us at an earlier stage. But still, even without nature´s help, way over 100 scientific publications have been published so far."
"The LHC has been running unexpectedly well for more than a year now and providing us with more data than we had hoped for even under the most optimistic assumptions," he added. "If it continues like this, we will have seen the Higgs particle by the end of next year at the latest -- or will be able to exclude its existence once and for all."
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