Physicists closing in on mystery particle

March 7, 2012 at 3:06 PM
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BATAVIA, Ill., March 7 (UPI) -- The end of the biggest search in the history of physics might finally be in sight with hints of the long-sought Higgs boson, U.S. researchers say.

Data collected over several years at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron accelerator in Illinois shows evidence of the Higgs, a mysterious particle thought responsible for endowing all matter with mass, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

"Based on the current Tevatron data and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments, this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson," a Fermilab report presented at a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy, said.

Accumulated evidence from the Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research outside Geneva, has physicists saying the Higgs particle could be confirmed as soon as this summer.

Last December, two particle detectors named Atlas and C.M.S. at the CERN collider found promising bumps in their data at masses of 124 billion electron volts and 126 billion electron volts, the units of mass or energy particle physicists expect for the Higgs boson.

Fermilab physicists have reported similar bumps in their data in the same region, between 115 billion and 135 billion electron volts.

"It is clearly not the answer to crossword, but an important piece of the puzzle!" Fermilab research leader Dmitri Denisov said.

CERN's Large Hadron Collider, now on a winter break, will be powered up again in April, smashing protons together at 4 trillion electron volts apiece.

The collider should accumulate enough data this year either to confirm the existence of the Higgs boson or to rule it out forever, CERN has said.

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