The hunt for the holy grail of physics will continue through the end of 2012, as officials announced today they won’t stop the Large Hadron Collider this year like originally planned. The machine is running so smoothly that scientists don’t want to shut it off, CERN officials said.

The LHC was scheduled to shut down late in 2011 and stay dormant for a couple years so physicists can prepare for full-strength experiments at 7 TeV per beam, starting in 2014. But at an annual planning workshop last week, managers decided to keep things running through the end of next year before shutting it down for 7 TeV prep. They announced their decision today.

Scientists hope the LHC will locate the higher dimensions this year and possibly isolate the Higgs boson, the lightest supersymmetric particle that is thought to endow others with mass.

Although the LHC will stay at half its design strength, about 3.5 TeV, the increased data streams may help scientists rule out or find the elusive Higgs boson by the end of next year, physicists confirmed. With the planned closure of the storied Tevatron this year, physicists the world over will be hoping that’s true.

[CERN via Guardian ]