Researchers visit CERN in search of elusive Higgs boson

Experimental physicists begin experiments in preparation for CERN's new atom smasher. The search: the elusive Higgs boson, possibly the source of mass in matter.

When Switzerland's CERN laboratory newest particle collider begins smashing atoms, scientists from the University of Chicago and Indiana University will be there to help crunch the data by using a worldwide supercomputing grid, reports Info World.

Researchers have already begun experiments at the MidWest Tier 2 Center, one of five regional computing centers in the U.S. that will support the network. The entire grid combines storage and processing resources at 158 institutions in 35 nations.

Scientists are hoping the experiments will find evidence of the Higgs boson, the theoretical source of mass in all matter. They could also discover supersymmetric particles, which act as gateways to extra dimensions.

The particles are like looking for a needle in a haystack, as the tiny particles may hide in tons of raw data. The new Large Hadron Collider with four particle-detectors known collectively as ATLAS (a toroidal large hadron collider apparatus) will steer beams of protons around the 27-kilometer circumference underground ring, creating 40 million particle collisions per second.

"If we don't see it, there's going to be a great deal of consternation," said James Pilcher, a physics professor at the University of Chicago. But those eager researchers will have to be patient as their computers crunch the data.

"Even once the data is recorded, it will take years of careful sifting and sorting, which will require massive amounts of computing power to extract the final scientific results," said Frederick Luehring, a senior research scientist at Indiana University.