Are scientists close to uncovering the Higgs boson?
Researchers analyzing data from Fermilab's now-defunct Tevatron particle accelerator say that they may have glimpsed evidence of the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called God particle thought to be responsible for giving all other particles mass.
New evidence makes it more likely than ever that 2012 will be the year physicists finally find the long-sought Higgs boson particle.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures The Large Hadron Collider
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The particle has been predicted as the explanation for why all other particles have mass. It has earned the nickname the "God Particle," largely from the popular media, though scientists haven't warmed to the name.
Yet despite years of searching, scientists have yet to detect the Higgs boson directly.
Now physicists at the Tevatron particle accelerator at Illinois' Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory report hints in their data that suggest the particle may exist with a mass between 115 to 135 giga-electron volts, or GeV (for comparison, a proton has a mass of about 0.938 GeV).
"We see a distinct Higgs-like signature that cannot be easily explained without the presence of something new," physicist Wade Fisher of Michigan State University said in a statement. "If what we're seeing really is the Higgs boson, it will be a major milestone for the world physics community and will place the keystone in the most successful particle physics theory in history."
That theory, called the Standard Model, has been successful in describing all the known fundamental particles in the universe. The Higgs boson is the only remaining particle that has been predicted by the theory, but never seen. [5 Implications of Finding the Higgs Boson]
The Tevatron findings agree with independent signs announced in December 2011 by scientists at the world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. There, too, researchers saw hints of an excess of particle events corresponding to something with a mass in about that range.
However, in neither case could the researchers confirm for sure that what they see is a new particle and not simply signals created by background events. More data must be gathered before the signals can be considered statistically significant enough to qualify as a discovery.