Monday, July 02, 2012

Scientists all but ready to confirm 'God particle,' details on Wednesday

In mid-December of last year, scientists said they felt they were closing in on the "God particle," or Higgs bosun, but were - at the time - unwilling to confirm it. On Wednesday, researchers will unveil the results of months-further study of the data, which all but confirms the existence of the Higgs bosun particle.

It's a 99.9 percent certainty, so to speak. The data gives researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, the footprint of the God particle, all but proving it existence, but it is not sufficient for them to say it has actually been seen.

Alternatively, it could simply be that scientists are continuing to hedge their bets. It's a fine line.

Joe Lykken at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Chicago, Illinois, who has been part of the search for the God particle since the early 1980s, explained its name to NPR:

"Our former director, Leon Lederman, called the Higgs particle the 'God particle.' It was not meant to be a religious comment; it was meant to express our understanding of how the universe works. We think without a Higgs boson, you can't have a universe in the first place."

British theoretical physicist John Ellis, a professor at King's College London who has worked at CERN since the 1970s, said, "I agree that any reasonable outside observer would say, 'It looks like a discovery.' We've discovered something which is consistent with being a Higgs."

On the other hand, Rob Roser, who leads the search for the Higgs boson at Chicago's Fermilab, said "particle physicists have a very high standard for what it takes to be a discovery," which explains researcher's reluctance to admit to a discovery. The results which are to be unveiled on Wednesday are akin to finding a fossilized imprint of a dinosaur, he added. "You see the footprints and the shadow of the object, but you don't actually see it."

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All this data comes as a result of the Large Hadron Collider, which sits on the French - Swiss border. While there was some fear - all right, a lot of fear - that the LHC could cause the end of the world, or perhaps a "The Mist" type of experience. None of those fears came to pass, however.


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