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Higgs boson: Was the 'God particle' found?

Higgs boson, aka, the "God particle" is a subatomic particle that is presumed to bestow mass on all other particles. An internal note from physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland has scientists buzzing.

By Mike WallLiveScience.com / April 25, 2011

The ATLAS particle detector, one of four huge detectors at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the world's biggest and most powerful particle accelerator. Has it found the Higgs boson?

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A rumor is floating around the physics community that the world's largest atom smasher may have detected a long-sought subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, also known as the "God particle."

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The controversial rumor is based on what appears to be a leaked internal note from physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 17-mile-long particle accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland. It's not entirely clear at this point if the memo is authentic, or what the data it refers to might mean — but the note already has researchers talking.

The buzz started when an anonymous commenter recently posted an abstract of the note on Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit's blog, Not Even Wrong.

Some physicists say the note may be a hoax, while others believe the "detection" is likely a statistical anomaly that will disappear upon further study. But the find would be a huge particle-physics breakthrough, if it holds up.

"If it were to be real, it would be really exciting," said physicist Sheldon Stone of Syracuse University.

IN PICTURES: Large Hadron Collider

Hunting for the Higgs

The Higgs boson is predicted to exist by prevailing particle-physics theory, which is known as the Standard Model. Physicists think the Higgs bestows mass on all the other particles — but they have yet to confirm its existence.

Huge atom smashers — like the LHC and the Tevatron, at Fermilab in Illinois — are searching for the Higgs and other subatomic bits of matter. These accelerators slam particles together at enormous speeds, generating a shower of other particles that could include the Higgs or other elemental pieces predicted by theory but yet to be detected. [Wacky Physics: The Coolest Little Particles in Nature]

The leaked note suggests that the LHC's ATLAS particle-detection experiment may have picked up a signature of the elusive Higgs. The signal is consistent, in mass and other characteristics, with what the Higgs is expected to produce, according to the note.

However, some other aspects of the signal don't match predictions.

"Its production rate is much higher than that expected for the Higgs boson in the Standard Model," Stone told SPACE.com in an email interview. So the signal may be evidence of some other particle, Stone added, "which in some sense would be even more interesting, or it could be the result of new physics beyond the Standard Model."

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