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Physicists edge closer to 'God particle' discovery (+video)

Scientists in Europe and the United States indicate that they have strong evidence for the existence of the so-called God particle, the Higgs Boson, which, if discovered, would help explain why matter has mass. 

By Clara MoskowitzLiveScience Senior Writer / July 2, 2012

In this 2011 photo, a physicist explains the ATLAS experiment on a board at the European Center for Nuclear Research, CERN, outside Geneva, Switzerland. Scientists at CERN plan to make an announcement on Wednesday about their hunt for the elusive sub-atomic particle.

Anja Niedringhaus/AP/File

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American scientists have found strong hints that the rumored Higgs boson particle exists, and has been created inside an atom smasher in Illinois.

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Fermilab scientist Don Lincoln describes the nature of the Higgs boson. Several large experimental groups are hot on the trail of this elusive subatomic particle which is thought to explain the origins of particle mass

The news comes just days before big news on the search for the Higgs is expected to be delivered by physicists from the world's largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

"This is a very exciting week — it may be the most exciting week in physics since I became a physicist," Joe Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Ill., said during a news conference today (July 2).

The Higgs boson, also called the "God particle," is thought to explain why other particles have mass. The idea is that a related energy field, called the Higgs field, permeates space, and that as particles pass through this field their interactions with it confer mass on them, like a spoon being dragged through molasses. [Top 5 Implications of Finding the Higgs Boson]

Fermilab scientists announced today that they've narrowed down the possible range of masses the Higgs particle can have, if it exists, to between 115 and 135 gigaelectron volts (GeV), a unit roughly equivalent to the mass of a proton.The findings are the result of a long and thorough analysis of particle collisions inside Fermilab's Tevatron accelerator. The machine, the biggest atom smasher in the United States, was shut down in 2011, but scientists are still poring through its measurements.

Now the Tevatron has been eclipsed by the larger and more powerful LHC, a17-mile (27 kilometer) underground loop beneath Switzerland and France. LHC scientists are due to announce the latest results from their search for the Higgs on July 4 at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia.

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