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Monday, July 2, 2012


Scientists will announce next week whether latest data supports previous findings which suggest the God Particle does existThe hunt for the God Particle could be close to completion as scientists prepare to reveal the latest results from the Large Hadron Collider ahead of a major conference next week.

Scientists from Cern will announce on Wednesday whether the tantalising "hints" of the Higgs Boson which they presented in December have been strengthened or grown weaker over the past six months.

Although the results may not be strong enough to declare an official discovery, they are rumoured to show very similar signals to those announced last year which back up the previous findings.

Independent experts said a replication of the same results would leave little doubt that the "hints" were genuine, indicating that the sought after particle, or something resembling it, exists.

Finding the Higgs Boson would provide the last piece of evidence for the Standard Model, the most widely accepted explanation of how the Universe works.

The particle, first proposed in theory by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964, would prove the existence of the Higgs Field, an invisible force which gives particles their mass and prevents them from whizzing through the universe at the speed of light.

Bloggers claiming to have inside information say both of the teams hunting the particle have found the same telltale "bumps" in scientific data as last year, which could point towards its presence.

There have even been suggestions Cern will announce definitively that it has found its quarry, but a strengthening of the results to a level of "four sigma" - one stage below the level of certainty needed to claim a discovery - is regarded as more likely.

Cern has urged the public not to believe the rumours, insisting that its physicists are still poring over months' worth of data and the full picture will not be clear even to them until early next week.

Earlier this year Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the director-general of the laboratory near Geneva, said his team would likely need until the end of the summer, or possibly the end of the year, to prove or disprove the fabled "God particle".

But Prof Stefan Soldner-Rembold, a particle physicist from Manchester University who is not part of Cern's Higgs search, said a strengthening of both the LHC results and the findings from the US Tevatron collider - also reportedly due next week - would all but settle the case.

He said: "I think if the LHC comes out with four sigma, and the Tevatron also increases its statistical significance at this mass range we are talking about, there would be very few sceptics left...nature would have to conspire in a very strange way if this was not real."

Although Cern is remaining tight-lipped ahead of the announcement, its physicists admit that replicating last year's data would be a "strong" indicator that a Higgs-like particle has been found.

This year alone the teams have doubled the amount of data they were working with six months ago due to an upgrading of the Large Hadron Collider's power.

Bill Murray, deputy physics co-ordinator at Cern, added: "We have now got something that is substantially more powerful than last year, which means that whetever statement we can make should be stronger on its own terms than last year.
"When we put both sets of data together, they may be even stronger still or they may weaken each other."

Claire Shepherd-Themistocleous, head of the CMS detector team at the Rutherford-Appleton laboratory in the UK, said: "We have looked at this year's data standing alone, and now we have to statistically combine it with what we found last year to form a new dataset.

"If [the signal] has grown in both experiments to a significant level then that would be a strong indicator."

By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent

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