Scientists working to find the elusive "God particle" say they've discovered "intriguing" signs that it does exist and they are closing in on what could be a basic building block of the universe.
Researchers working at the Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle collider located astride the Swiss/French border, were quick to note they have not yet found anything to definitively prove or disprove that the Higgs boson particle exists. However, they think they're close enough to figure it out within a year.
The Higgs boson particle has long been a focus of great scientific speculation. If it does exist, it's thought to account for why everything in the universe has weight. Frequently referred to as the "God particle," it could be a key component of everything from humans to stars and planets, as well as the vast majority of the universe that is invisible.
Scientists hope that finding Higgs boson could help answer many of the great mysteries of the universe. Conversely, without this cornerstone of physics, many of the theories that serve as the underpinnings of human understanding of the universe evaporate.
"We cannot conclude anything at this stage," said Guido Tonelli, an Italian physicist who has been studying the Higgs boson. "We need more study and more data. Given the outstanding performance of the [Large Hadron Collider] this year, we will not need to wait long for enough data and can look forward to resolving this puzzle in 2012."
Part of the difficulty in finding the particle, if it does exist, is that physicists don't have any idea of what mass Higgs boson itself might have. That means they have to look for it through an expansive range of mass possibilities.
Researchers working at the Large Hadron Collider noted in an announcement Tuesday that they now think Higgs boson is more likely to be found in the lower range of the mass spectrum.
"Tantalizing hints have been seen... in this mass region, but these are not yet strong enough to claim a discovery," wrote a spokesman for the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which runs the Large Hadron Collider.
Scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider, which went online in September of 2008, are on a quest to answer some of the great mysteries of the universe: the existence of Higgs boson, understanding dark matter and black holes, and finding new dimensions.
Smashing the beams together inside the 17-mile underground collider creates showers of new particles that should replicate conditions in the universe just moments after its conception.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.