Cern: Higgs boson answer to come by end of 2012

Cern: Higgs boson answer to come by end of 2012

Summary: The 'Shakespeare question' about whether the Higgs boson exists or not will be settled by Large Hadron Collider experiments by the end of next year, according to Cern director general Rolf Heuer

TOPICS: Emerging Tech

Cern researchers will have established whether the Higgs boson exists by the end of 2012, according to Cern's director general Rolf Heuer.

Large Hadron Collider at CERN

Scientists at Cern using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have said they will able to settle the existence of the Higgs boson by the end of 2012. Photo credit: Claudia Marcelloni/Cern

The hypothetical Higgs boson is thought to be responsible for giving elementary particles their mass. The question of whether it exists will be settled once the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has generated more statistics, Heuer told the International Europhysics Conference on High Energy Physics on Monday.

"We can settle the Shakespeare question of the Higgs boson — to be or not to be — by the end of next year," Heuer told the audience at the event in Grenoble. "To see it we have to have much more statistics, up to factor 10, to answer the question."

The Higgs boson has enormous importance in the Standard Model of physics, a collection of theories about how the universe works. The Higgs boson explains mass in the Standard Model and could indicate why some particles have mass and others do not.

Physicists at Cern have established that the particle, if it exists, has a mass of between 115 and around 140 giga electron volts (GeV), according to Heuer. This means that the particle could be a Standard Model Higgs, or could be a Supersymmetry Higgs. If the mass was beyond 450 GeV, that would rule out a Supersymmetry Higgs, said Heuer.

For the Higgs boson, we know everything about it, except if it exists.

– Rolf Heuer, Cern

Supersymmetry is a set of plausible but unproven theories that propose each known particle has at least one unknown partner. The Standard Model, on the other hand, describes how known particles and fields interact, albeit incompletely and with some peculiarities. Once discovered, the relationship of the Higgs boson to these models will be highly significant.

"We can exclude quite some range for the Higgs mass, and we have some intriguing fluctuations," said Heuer. "The probable mass of the Higgs boson is in a region of low mass... If we do not find a low-mass Higgs, then the Standard Model is no longer valid today.

"For the Higgs boson, we know everything about it, except if it exists," he added.

Physicists working at the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment (CMS) at Cern said on Friday that they may have observed the Higgs boson, but needed to collect more data to be sure.

"It should be noted that a modest excess of events is observed for Higgs boson masses below 145 GeV," said CMS physicists in a statement. "With the data we will collect in the next few months, we will be able to distinguish between the possible interpretations: the production of a Higgs boson or a statistical fluctuation of the backgrounds."

Fermilab experiments

Scientists at Fermilab in Illinois said they have also seen results that could indicate the existence of the Higgs boson. Fermilab hosts the Tevatron experiment, a particle accelerator along the lines of the LHC.

"If the Higgs particle does exist, then the Tevatron experiments may soon begin to find an excess of Higgs-like decay events," said Fermilab in a statement on Thursday. "With the number of collisions recorded to date, the Tevatron experiments are currently unique in their ability to study the decays of Higgs particles into bottom quarks. This signature is crucial for understanding the nature and behaviour of the Higgs particle."

Tevatron physicists also said they would be able to either confirm or rule out the Higgs boson by the end of 2012. Physicists at Fermilab have experienced a number of discoveries as the particle accelerator has neared the end of its life. On Wednesday, Fermilab announced the discovery of a heavy relative of the neutron, called a neutral Xi-sub-b, which is a particle formed of three quarks.

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Topic: Emerging Tech

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • No collision 'on earth' can bring out Higgs. I literally mean 'on earth', because these are not the condition which can take us back to the so-called big bang. Further, Higgs is theory. In practice gravity is due to particles whose spin is of course 0, but the rest is not so definitive as being thought in the SM. My site gives a chronology of the developments in my research efforts; don't be too much disappointed by the absence of details (it's a blog really), the details shall be published with the publication of my US patent application.
  • I was interested to know what a "large HARDON collider" does as mentioned in the caption under the picture
  • That's one powerful, Large "Hard On" Collider. (see photo caption... I believe "Hadron" was the intended spelling...)
  • After 20 years and they could not find it, the yanks say they might have seen it so all of a sudden it will be found immediately. When it looks like rat, tastes like rat and smells like one it is a rat.

    We spent billions in a hole in the mountains to find something which has no use, which cannot be found after 20 years of looking and as long as it cant be found today but might be tomorrow the funding keeps coming in. Now the particle might have been seen 'possibly' that funding will end - after all what use is a research super collider when it has nothing left to research.

    CERN's helium refill and repair cost more than some nations GDP.
  • Ah, every sub's dreaded mistake. Fixed now, thanks!
    Jon Yeomans
  • Will any of this atom collision research go into producing that meteor smashing laser defense we all dream of?
  • Way to turn a discussion of the Higgs boson into a discussion about your own work. With a head that size, you probably have a gravitational field of your own. Tell me, when the sun revolves around your head, does it blind you with its brightness - or do you instead blind it with your (imaginary) awesomeness? I do hope its orbit doesn't decay, so the sun doesn't collapse into your head - because that could only make it bigger.

    Anyway. Like some people, I won't pretend I know everything about the Higgs boson, when the world's best scientists don't. But I do know a little. I know it's supposed to permeate all of space and give known particles their mass. As such it is not a particle that existed only at the time of the Big Bang, but rather one that exists and affects our reality today - if it exists. You might need a high energy environment to see it, but you shouldn't need to recreate the big bang precisely to see it.

    Anyway, I hope the Sun doesn't blind you as it approaches periapsis. Because that would, you know, suck (for you).
  • if you are going to locate the "god particle" and cause a "Big Bang" on earth, answering THE eternal question by the end of next year. could you do it on Dec 21st? I would just like some symmetry to the end of the world. thanks
  • if you are going to locate the 'god particle' and cause a 'Big Bang'/black whole effect on earth to do so. All the while answering THE eternal question of the universe. ... by the end of next year. Could you do it on Dec 21st? that would give us some end of the world validation. thanks.
  • I for one applaud Europe for this most incredible machine and I look forward to new discoveries.

    Jon King
    Jon King
  • higgs boson to be discovered at the end of 2012..the world "as we know it" to end on 21 dec 2012..are we looking at an armageddon or a revelation..the suspense is killing me :)
  • You mean all this will happen in time for the Mayan prediction for 2012? Cool.
  • Maybe the Mayans had a Large Hadron Collider as well underneath their temples!
    Paul 1-3644c
  • Just a random thought: Physics is based on mathematics, and mathematics is based on the concept of zero and infinity which, any scientist including our great 'einstein' would testify, are undefined.
  • Looks like a stargate. Removing mass from an object is one of the objectives according to Dr Karl. Impossible? Perhaps not.
    roger andre
  • So how do 4m tonnes of these Higgs bosons disappear every second? from the Sun, into what are they converted having no gravity.
    Doesn't e/m = c^2 apply to mass not gravity.
    Am I missing something or is Dr. Karl, above, right.
  • There is not a particle in the universe that doesn't have mass. Just because we can't detect it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Let's bring "other dimensional science" out of the closet. When the theorists, that the scientists listen to, begin this dialog, then we will be standing on the door step of advanced technology.
    J.S. Thompson
  • > There is not a particle in the universe that doesn't have mass.

    Err, photons? Perhaps neutrinos too? I may have been out of education for a while, but I'd always learnt that travelling at the speed of light was only possible for particles without mass. Which would make photons massless *by definition*.
  • There could be all kinds of things going on (or off) outside the range of our extended sense (extended with instrumentation).
    roger andre
  • > There could be all kinds of things going on (or off) outside the range of our
    > extended sense (extended with instrumentation).

    But the current theory is *still* the Standard Model, unless we fail to find a low-mass Higgs boson. Which is what CERN and Fermilab are testing for right now. So if you're hoping to be buying a stargate from Argos any time soon then you're in for one massive disappointment.