SAN DIEGO, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The Higgs boson, the elusive particle underpinning physicists' theory of all matter, is running out of places to hide -- "if it exists" -- U.S. scientists say.
Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, including a number from the University of California, San Diego, have experimentally eliminated most of the range of masses the Higgs could have, leaving just a narrow range where the elusive particle might be found.
"If it exists, it has to be there," UCSD physicist Vivek Sharma said. "And if it's not there, it will be known to be science fiction by December."
Scientists are using the LHC to accelerate protons to almost the speed of light and smash them together, briefly recreating conditions that existed when the universe began.
It's at that instant that the Higgs boson, if it exists, should show itself and then quickly decay into more familiar particles and instruments record the collisions.
The scientists have ramped up the rate of collisions to gather more data.
"We are now entering a very exciting phase in the hunt for the Higgs boson," Sharma said. "One way or the other we are poised for a major discovery, likely by the end of this year."