redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, will present preliminary findings from its search for the Higgs Boson, the so-called ℠God particle´, on July 4 as an international physics conference gets underway, the Geneva-based organization said on Thursday.
The announcement will include the latest results from ATLAS and CMS, two major experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that are searching for the Higgs boson. Both teams of scientists are working down to the wire to finish analyzing their data, and to determine exactly what can be said about what they may or may not have discovered.
CERN´s announcement follows a report earlier on Thursday by the Geneva-based newspaper Le Temps, which said discovery of the theoretical particle might be “imminent.”
Science bloggers, including some of the thousands of physicists working on the CERN project, have also speculated that CERN will finally announce proof of the particle´s existence.
Additionally, news that CERN plans to hold a live, worldwide news conference next week during the Melbourne, Australia physics conference sent speculation of a Higgs bison announcement soaring.
But CERN dismissed the reports and speculation as premature, saying it is not yet certain whether the particle has been conclusively identified.
“We do not yet know what will be shown on July 4th,” said Ian Hinchliffe, a theoretical physicist in the Physics Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who heads the Lab’s participation in the ATLAS experiment.
“I have seen many conjectures on the blogs about what will be shown: these are idle speculation. Things are moving very fast this week, and it’s an exciting time a CERN. Many years of hard work are coming to fruition.”
The theoretical Higgs Boson, which is believed to allow particles to generate mass, would either confirm or complicate the current understanding of our universe by potentially explaining how the stars and planets formed after the Big Bang.
“It´s a very exciting time in particle physics because we know that we´re on the verge of either showing that this thing exists or not,” said James Gillies, a spokesman at Geneva-based CERN, during an interview with Bloomberg News.
Even CERN insiders won’t know the answer until the results from both are consolidated, he said.
CERN´s ATLAS and CMS experiments took place in the organization´s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The 17-mile looped pipe — the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator — sits in an underground tunnel on the Swiss/French border.
Two beams of energy were fired in opposite directions around the Collider before smashing into each other to create many millions of particle collisions per second, essentially recreating the conditions a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang.
The enormous amount of data produced by the experiment must be examined by powerful computers, which then analyze the billions of collisions for the very few that may reveal the Higgs particle.
“It’s like smashing watermelons together and trying to achieve a perfect collision for two of the pips inside,” said Jordan Nash, a professor at London’s Imperial College and a member of one of the teams looking for the Higgs, during an interview with Reuters.
Last December, CERN provided some enticing glimpses of Higgs from a just handful of collisions out of the many millions analyzed. Since then, the power inside the collider has been boosted to increase the intensity of the particle smashing, producing more data between April and June of this year than all of last year combined.
“We’re looking for something so rare, it’s a sifting experiment,” Nash said.
“We just made a gigantic haystack and now we are looking for the needle”.
The Higgs particle is a central tenet of something called the Standard Model, which is the best account physicists have of how the universe functions at the most basic level. However, the Higgs boson is still just theoretical. British scientist Peter Higgs first speculated about the particle´s existence in 1964 as the way matter obtained mass after the universe was created 13.7 billion years ago.
According to the theory, without the Higgs boson the universe would have remained a vast soup of particles, and would never have coalesced into stars, planets and life we see today.
But even if existence of the particle is finally proven, it will only apply to the fairly small part of the universe explained by the Standard Model. It won´t explain the dark matter or dark energy scientists believe comprise the vast majority of the universe.
But it could be an important step towards devising a theory of everything that encompasses dark matter and energy, and might also help explain the force of gravity, which is also not addressed by the Standard Model.
Those early glimpses of the Higgs may, of course, not be borne out in the latest data, which would provoke disappointment and some serious debate about where to look next. On the other hand, they may discover the Higgs exactly as speculated.
Scientists say the most sensational news from CERN would be the discovery of a type of Higgs particle that differs somewhat from that described in the Standard Model.
This could provide an indication on where to look for answers on dark matter, dark energy and even more mysterious concepts like parallel universes, scientists say.
“Something more exotic could take us beyond the Standard Model and into the rest of the universe that we currently know nothing about,” Gillies said, noting that Einstein’s theories included and expanded on the work of Isaac Newton.
As scientists the world over hold their breath in anticipation of next week´s announcement, one thing is certain: we may be on the cusp of many exciting developments in the quest to better understand dark matter, miniature black holes, extra dimensions of space and other cosmic mysteries.
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online