Scientists Find Hints Of Higgs Boson But No Proof

As I noted yesterday, there were reports that physicists at the Large Hadron Collider were preparing to announce something major regarding one of subatomic physics’s most elusive particles. Well, there was an announcement today but it wasn’t anything definitive:

Physicists will have to keep holding their breath a little while longer.

Two teams of scientists sifting debris from high-energy proton collisions in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, said Tuesday that they had recorded “tantalizing hints” — but only hints — of a long-sought subatomic particle known as the Higgs boson, whose existence is a key to explaining why there is mass in the universe. It is likely to be another year, however, before they have enough data to say whether the elusive particle really exists, the scientists said.

The putative particle weighs in at about 125 billion electron volts, about 125 times heavier than a proton and 500,000 times heavier than an electron, according to one team of 3,000 physicists, known as Atlas, for the name of their particle detector. The other equally large team, known as C.M.S. — for their detector, the Compact Muon Solenoid — found bumps in their data corresponding to a mass of about 126 billion electron volts.

If the particle does exist at all, it must lie within the range of 115 to 127 billion electron volts, according to the combined measurements. “We cannot conclude anything at this stage,” said Fabiola Gianotti, the Atlas spokeswoman, adding, “Given the outstanding performance of the L.H.C. this year, we will not need to wait long for enough data and can look forward to resolving this puzzle in 2012.”

Over the last 20 years, suspicious bumps that might have been the Higgs have come and gone, and scientists cautioned that the same thing could happen again, but the fact that two rival teams using two different mammoth particle detectors had recorded similar results was considered to be good news. Physicists expect to have enough data to make the final call by the summer.

So, the search goes on.

FILED UNDER: Quick Takes, Science & Technology
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    Great,

    That’s all the proof I need.

    Let’s fund another 50 years of looking for the Higgs boson while the world stagnates!

  2. grumpy realist says:

    @ponce: I’d much rather spend $ on this than blowing up people in countries looking for non-existent armament. How much money have we spent on this Iraq debacle so far?

  3. Tano says:

    Let’s fund another 50 years of looking for the Higgs boson while the world stagnates!

    Why do you think that spending money on this type of research prevents us emerging from economic stagnation?
    First off, this is a European effort – they are the ones spending most of the money. But beyond that, it seems clearly to be stimulative spending. Designing and building this high-tech machine must have kept lots of engineers, technicians and consturction workers employed, and improving their skills. Once built, it is keeping lots of physicists and associated staff employed. Even if it doesn’t find anything, it seems like it is anything but a waste.

  4. John H says:

    Funny thing – nobody at the party in the Physics lounge last night was that unsure. Of course, the bubbly probably tasted better to those that hadn’t been betting against the Standard Model.
    _

  5. grumpy realist says:

    I’m going to classify this with the monopole that went through the lab at Stanford until we get a signal out beyond 6 sigma….

    But yeah, finally finding the Higgs boson would be cool. (I still remember the Sci Am article that introduced me to Gauge Theory and the Higgs boson. What a brain twister.)