God particle glimpsed, but not discovered

Dec 13, 2011, 10:07 by R.E. Christian

U.S. and European scientists say they may have caught a glimpse of Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle," but have stopped short of claiming the discovery.

Finally identifying the most coveted prize in particle physics could be a turning point in understanding the universe, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, said.

The elusive, and so far hypothetical yet massive, Higgs boson elementary particle -- sometimes called the "God particle" because it could be the basic building block of the universe from which all other particles are made -- would vindicate the modern theory of how the fundamental particles that make up atoms get mass, scientists say.

Two competing armies of scientists at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, who have been sifting debris from hundreds of trillions of proton collisions in the world's largest particle accelerator, discussed their findings at a seminar in Geneva Tuesday, the BBC reported.

The heads of the Atlas and CMS research groups said they see "spikes" in their data at roughly the same mass: 124-125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV).

"The excess may be due to a fluctuation, but it could also be something more interesting. We cannot exclude anything at this stage," said Fabiola Gianotti, spokesperson for the Atlas experiment.

Guido Tonelli, spokesperson for the CMS experiment, said: "The excess is most compatible with a Standard Model Higgs in the vicinity of 124 GeV and below, but the statistical significance is not large enough to say anything conclusive."

Their glimpses could lead the way to a conclusive statement about the Higgs' existence when more data are gathered next year, CERN scientists said in a statement.

The significance of finding the last remaining particle-physics particle not yet observed experimentally would go far beyond understanding how atoms could develop mass and become a basic unit of all matter, scientists say.

"The thing about the Higgs is that we always say we need it to explain mass. But the real importance of it is that we need it to make sense of the universe," particle physicist Tara Shears of the University of Liverpool told the BBC.

"Discovering the Higgs confirms that the approach we have been taking to understand the universe is correct," she said.

Source: UPI