If the subatomic particle predicted by theory and known as the Higgs boson exists, then the Large Hadron Collider of the European Organization for Nuclear Research Geneva will detect it by the end of 2012, a scientists involved in the search said.
"I am pretty confident that towards the end of 2012 we will have an answer to the Shakespeare question of the Higgs boson: to be or not to be?" Rolf-Dieter Heuer told Britain's The Independent.
"But not finding the Higgs will not be a failure; on the contrary," he said.
If the collider fails to produce evidence of the Higgs, something even more mysterious must explain mass and gravity, Heuer said.
This would require an overhaul of the "standard model" of physics that has guided scientists for decades, he said.
"If it does not exist, and therefore we do not find it, then we must find something else which takes up the job of the Higgs, namely giving up mass to elementary particles," he said.
Researcher Guido Tonelli said physics was on the verge of changing the way we view and understand the universe.
"Physics will not be the same after 2012," he said. "This will probably change our vision of the world. It will have an impact on the future, depending on what we discover or don't discover."