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So close to the God particle: Scientists say 'stay tuned'

December 13, 2011 |  8:37 am

Scientists have narrowed their search for the God particle
Physicists have detected hints of the long-sought Higgs boson but have not yet amassed enough data for definitive proof of discovery of the so-called God particle, scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said Tuesday.

The Higgs boson is believed to be involved in the origin of mass in the universe. Scientists proposed its existence in the 1960s but for decades were frustrated by their inability to see the particle in collider experiments.

On Tuesday, scientists announced preliminary results of data collected through the end of October stemming from two experiments.

Two teams of scientists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva had been studying the debris trails — the tracks of subatomic particles — from trillions of collisions between protons. The tracks were recorded by two immense detectors known as ATLAS and CMS and analyzed by hundreds of scientists around the world.

The teams found small traces of the Higgs at a relatively low mass range and excluded the possibility that the particle exists in lower or higher mass regions, scientists said.

Seeing the Higgs is crucial for particle physicists because it would provide further evidence for the standard model of particle physics, a theory that explains how subatomic particles form the basic building blocks of the universe. Searching for the Higgs was a leading motivation for the construction of the $5-billion Large Hadron Collider.

Physicists from the teams said that data expected to pour from the machine in during 2012 could settle the question of the Higgs’ existence for good.

But CERN Director General Rolf-Dieter Heuer sounded a note of caution.

“Keep in mind, these are preliminary results. And keep in mind, we’re talking about small numbers. And keep in mind, that we’re also running next year,” he told the audience of scientists gathered at CERN on Tuesday afternoon. “Please be prudent — we haven’t found it and we haven’t excluded it. Stay tuned for next year.”

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-- Eryn Brown

Photo: A 2008 photo shows a CERN scientist studying computer screens that show traces of protons injected in the Large Hadron Collider. Credit: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP/Getty Images

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