Data analysis strengthens Higgs discovery

Aug. 1, 2012 at 6:34 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- Physicists in Europe say ongoing analysis of experimental data has added weight to their claim of the discovery of the elusive Higgs boson.

Physicists running two experiments with the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland -- CM'S and ATLAS -- announced July 4 they had finally found the long-sought Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle," considered the last missing piece of the standard model, credited with giving all other particles mass.

Scientists with the ATLAS group say they've carried out a more complete analysis that boosts the statistical significance of the Higgs signal even further, New reported Wednesday.

Both experiment groups said the signal detected by the LHC had a statistical significance of 5 sigma, meaning there's only a 5-in-10 million chance the signal was due to background processes rather than a new particle.

The Atlas group is reporting further analysis has raised the statistical significance of their Higgs signal to nearly 6 sigma, which puts the chance of the signal they observed being due to background processes down to 2 in a billion.

The new results not only bolster the original results but will help physicists determine whether the particle is the same Higgs boson predicted by the standard model, or possibly something stranger, researchers said.

"It could well be that it's not the standard model Higgs boson," ATLAS spokeswoman Fabiola Gianotti said.

"When the uncertainties become even smaller, when we have even more data and more studies, we'll be able to understand better the properties of this particle, if it's a Higgs boson or a more exotic object," Gianotti said.

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