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'God particle' goes missing: Higgs boson 'may not exist' say Hadron Collider scientists
The ATLAS particle beam detector, whose director said that the 'range' of
masses where the elusive Higgs particle might be found was diminishing.

'God particle' goes missing: Higgs boson 'may not exist' say Hadron Collider scientists

September 14, 2011
The Daily Mail

Signals reported in July seemed to indicate that the Higgs boson - a long-theorised particle seen as a missing link in our current understanding of physics - might have been detected among data the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva.

But since then, those signals - hinting that the theoretical 'God' particle might have a mass between 120 and 140GeV - looked much less conclusive among new statistics received from the experiment.

Guido Tonelli, spokesman for the Compact Muon Solenoid Detector, a huge particle detector at CERN employing 3,600 scientists, told the BBC's Today programme this week, 'If we exclude the existence of the Higgs this will be a major discovery - it would completely review our vision of nature.'

Tonelli said, 'We should be patient in this search,' he said, 'This machine is so powerful we will be able to explore completely new territory.'

'The standard model of particle physics has lasted for forty years,' CERN spokesman James Gillies told Mail Online today, 'But it's a flawed theory. Something within it has got to give. At the kind of energies the LHC is probing, we are investigating what generates the mass of particles. Higgs is just one theory.

'Higgs is the most popular because it's mathematically appealing,' says Gillies. 'If we don't find the Higgs, we will go on to find whatever else it is that is generating mass.'

The Large Hadron Collider is now yielding twice the amount of data it was at this time last year, using experiments which use huge magnets to accelerate particles to nearly the speed of light.

These recreate conditions around the moment of the Big Bang - a time when the Higgs boson is theorised by British physicist Peter Higgs to have endowed particles with mass.

Initial signals seemed to indicate that the Higgs could be within a range of 120 and 140GeV, 'detectable' by looking for 'events' created by the short-lived particle's decay into pairs of other subatomic particles - but these were later dismissed as probable statistical fluctuation.

CERN1's research director, Sergio Bertolucci said this summer, 'Discoveries are almost assured within the next twelve months. If the Higgs exists, the LHC experiments will soon find it. If it does not, its absence will point the way to new physics.'

Vivek Sharma, a physics professor searching for the Higgs with the CMS particle detector at the facility told science site RDMag this week, 'The Higgs, if it exists, is now 'trapped' between 114 and 145 GeV. If it exists, it has to be there. If it's not there, it will be known to be science fiction by December, 2011.'

Other physicists with the project suspect an answer may not be found until the end of next year.

But even if the elusive particle is not found, the experiments, which use the 'ring' to smash streams of protons together at nearly the speed of light, creating billions of 'miniature Big Bangs', will still expand human knowledge - even if it is simply by exposing flaws in the Standard Model of physics, accepted since the Seventies as a system to 'explain' matter.

Speaking earlier this year, Tonelli said, 'We've reached the edge of the unknown. It's all new physics from now.'

'The Higgs boson has been rather elusive so far and no one really knows what it will look like. But if the Higgs boson exists, then we know how to set traps to catch some,' wrote Pauline Gagnon, a CERN physicist on the facility's official blog this month.

'The difficulty is to catch as many events corresponding to the decay of a Higgs boson while rejecting the what we call the background. It is as if we want to take a photo of a small flash of light in bright daylight.'

'We need to set special filters to minimize the amount of background light coming through, while still allowing the tiny flash to be seen. Fortunately, we know quite well what the Standard Model predicts.

'So in the end, all we do is count the number of selected events to see if we find more than what is expected solely from the background.'

So far, though, after months of experiments, nothing has leapt out of the background so far.

'No Higgs is good Higgs,' wrote Gagnon, 'Much has been said about the Higgs boson, mostly how great it would be to find it. But what about if we do not? Could that be useful? In fact, yes, that'd be a great discovery.'

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