It needs 96 tons of liquid helium to keep its magnets cool, and, if they ever get it to work right, might be the first accelerator to detect the elusive, mass-imbuing particle known as the Higgs boson.
There’s no official announcement yet--that comes next week--but word on the street and around the cafeteria at CERN says that scientists may announce that they’ve glimpsed the elusive Higgs boson at a meeting scheduled for Tuesday. Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider have been saying that they are closing on the so-called God Particle for a while now, and while a rock-solid 5-sigma event isn’t in the offing we might finally see our first experimental data that points toward a real Higgs sighting.
Why all the buzz all of a sudden? Firstly, next week’s meeting will see presentations by researchers from both the ATLAS and CMS experiments, the two main experiments at the LHC charged with finding the Higgs. That’s not particularly out of the ordinary, but rumor has it senior scientists from each experiment will be presenting, something that is usually delegated further down the chain of command.Further, there’s the reportedly palpable sense of anticipation at CERN itself, where reporters on site are reporting a growing sense of excitement. Television news show Newsnight managed to grab quotes from a few scientists at CERN this week that point toward a feeling of anxious elation.
Professor John Ellis, a former head of theoretical physics at CERN, didn’t even bother masking his excitement, telling Newsnight:
“I think we are going to get the first glimpse. The LHC experiments have already looked high and low for this missing piece. It could be that it weighs several hundred times the proton mass, but that seems very unlikely, then there's a whole intermediate range where we know it cannot be, then there's the low mass range where we actually expect it might be. There seem to be some hints emerging there... and that's what we're going to learn on Tuesday.”
So that’s a pretty strong suggestion that something big is in the works for next week. Sergio Bertolucci, chief of research at CERN, was more guarded in his comments yet stopped short of trying to squash the rumors: "It's too early to say…I think we may get indications that are not consistent with its non-existence."
In other words, we didn’t NOT find the Higgs.
Stay tuned. By all indications, Tuesday is going to be a big day.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.