Magazine article Science News

LHC Finds Tantalizing Hint of Higgs: Teams Report 'Inconclusive' Evidence for Long-Sought Particle

Magazine article Science News

LHC Finds Tantalizing Hint of Higgs: Teams Report 'Inconclusive' Evidence for Long-Sought Particle

Article excerpt

The world's most powerful atom smasher has given physicists a tantalizing--but inconclusive--hint that the long-sought Higgs particle actually exists.

It's the last undiscovered elementary particle in the standard model, physicists' leading framework for describing the constituents of matter and transmitters of force. Its discovery would confirm that subatomic particles acquire their mass by interacting with a pervasive Higgs field.

Two teams at the Large Hadron Collider say they've seen showers of particles that match the debris expected when the Higgs particle breaks down.

"It's too early to tell if the success is due to the fluctuations in the background, or if it's due to something more interesting," said Fabiola Gianotti, who presented results from LHC's ATLAS detector December 13 at the European laboratory CERN, home of the LHC, near Geneva.

This subatomic detritus--seen by both ATLAS and the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at the LHC--is suggestive of a Higgs boson with a mass of about 125 billion electron volts (the mass of a proton is about 1 billion electron volts). That number corresponds with previous data from the LHC and from other colliders that have ruled out the existence of a Higgs with a mass below 114 billion electron volts or above 141 billion electron volts.

"If the Higgs was there, this is more or less the kind of thing you would expect," said Lisa Randall, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University.

The chance that the ATLAS detector's sighting is simply a random fluctuation is about one in 90. …

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