The Higgs boson is kind of like the Holy Grail of particle physics – we believe it exists and that it accounts for how everything in the Universe gets its mass, but it is notoriously elusive. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva have been conducting experiments for years trying to track down what the media often refers to as “the God Particle”, but with little success. That might be changing, as scientists in two separate experiments at the LHC say they’ve recently caught glimpses of the Higgs boson.
There isn’t enough data yet to allow scientists to say they’ve “discovered” the Higgs boson, but these new results are stirring up a lot of excitement in the particle physics community. Two separate experiments tasked with looking for the particle – Atlas and CMS – have seen spikes in their data at roughly the same mass. Such experiments at particle accelerators look for the Higgs boson (whose exact mass is not predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics) by “systematically look[ing] for it across a broad search area”, so having two independent experiments see hints of the particle at the same mass is very interesting. It is a fairly small data set when considered in the context of the massive number of collisions happening at the LHC and, at this point, could be accounted for by “background fluctuation”, but researchers are still excited. Professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester was heartened by the results, saying, “Within one year we will probably know whether the Higgs particle exists.”
The BBC’s article on the announcement is very interesting, and contains more specifics about the experiments and their results for those who are interested.