They’re looking for the ever-elusive Higgs boson, the subatomic “God Particle“, as it’s often called.
CERN’s ATLAS experiment showed a statistically marked increase in activity that indicate the Higgs boson could be pinned down with a mass of 126 giga-electron-volts.
“We observe an excess of events around mass of about 126 GeV,” CERN physicist Fabiola Gianotti said in slides presented today at a CERN seminar.
The Higgs boson, thought by some to be the constant that gives other particles its mass, is a critical missing ingredient in physicists’ understanding of our universe. The God Particle is predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, but no one has been able to confirm its existence.
Gianotti said the team had come up with some “beautiful results,” but stopped short of declaring victory because there’s insufficient data for statistical certainty.
“It’s too early to draw definite conclusions…We believe we have built a solid foundation on the exciting months to come.”
By nature, the Higgs boson cannot be observed directly, but rather it’s detected by extremely rare side effects of collisions between protons smashing into each other at incredibly high speeds. To increase the likelihood of collisions, the operators of the Large Hadron Collider have been gradually increasing the intensity of the beam.
Gianotti also said CERN’s results predict with a 95 percent confidence level that the Higgs boson has a mass between 115.5GeV and 131GeV.
“With the data from this year we’ve ruled out a lot of masses, and now we’re just left with this tiny window, in this region that is probably the most interesting,” said Jonas Strandberg, a researcher at CERN working on the ATLAS experiment.
“We know we must be getting close,” Strandberg added. “All we need is a little bit more data. I think the data we take in 2012 should be able to really give a definitive answer if the Higgs boson exists.”
The LHC is a huge, complex instrument built in a circular subterranean, 17-mile-long tunnel. It can accelerate protons so quickly that, when they collide, they produce energy levels found only in the earliest moments of the universe after the Big Bang.