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Could the Higgs boson teach us anything about dark matter? (+video)

If the existence of the Higgs boson is confirmed, it would complete the Standard Model of particle physics. But does that bring us any closer to understanding a mysterious substance thought to account for more than four fifths of the total mass of the universe?

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"You can think of what we found as the key part of the genetic blueprint of the universe," Spiropulu told SPACE.com in an email. "You remember in 2000 what we all exclaimed and learned about how the genome will lead us to new places. This is a good analogy on the road we are down on, in terms of changing things in our understanding."

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Further experiments could indicate that the composition of dark matter requires a more fundamental explanation than the Standard Model, Newman said.

"Even if we find out that this is indeed, to the best of our ability to measure, the Standard Model Higgs boson, there are all these other questions that are unanswered. One of the first questions is: What composes the dark matter in the universe? There's no room in the Standard Model of the universe to make up the dark matter, so we have to look at other candidate alternatives."

One such alternative is known as "supersymmetry" or SUSY, which is an extension of the Standard Model. Supersymmetry suggests that every known elemental particle has a partner that is identical except for its spin. For instance, photons would have partner "photinos," and electroweak bosons would have duplicate "electroweak-inos."

"Now a Higgs-like sector in SUSY becomes very rich," Spiropulu said. "You have a set of "higgs-inos" as partners. How the dark matter candidate behaves has to do with how it shakes hands with the electroweak-inos and the higgs-inos. So the (very, very) weakly interacting massive particle of SUSY that fits the bill for the dark matter composition of the universe is coupled to the existence of some Higgs and its supersymmetric extension."

The confirmation process for the new particle will take time, as physicists run more experiments and analyze wider sets of data to be sure they are not witnessing anomalous events. Still, it is an exciting time for science.

"Whatever happens, Standard Model or no, we are at the edge of a tremendous generation of exploration," Newman said, "either to find out what's wrong with the Standard Model, or to go back to looking for what are the more fundamental things that are outside the model, and how we explain those."

Follow Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow or SPACE.com @Spacedotcom. We're also on Facebook and Google+.

Copyright 2012 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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