Eureka? Evidence of the Higgs Boson Mounts
- March 7, 2012
After a 10-year search, two experiments from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois report hints of what may be the Higgs boson. The finding bolsters results announced last year from CERN’s LHC experiments, which may have spotted the elusive particle at around 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV).
“A worldwide picture is starting to form that is making us excited at some level,” said physicist Rob Roser, co-spokesman for the CDF collaboration, one of the two Fermilab experiments reporting the new results.
The Higgs boson is the final piece of particle physicists’ greatest puzzle. According to the Standard Model — which describes the interactions of all known particles and forces in the universe — the Higgs is what provides other particles their mass.
Scientists in charge of the two detectors on Fermilab’s Tevatron particle collider, CDF and DZero, announced that they have seen a small excess of events between 115 and 135 GeV that could correspond to the mysterious Higgs on March 7, during a particle physics conference in Moriond, Italy.
Though the Tevatron, once the world’s premier particle accelerator, was shut down in September, scientists are still analyzing mountains of data generated by collisions between protons and antiprotons zipping around the 4-mile-long track. These records have already turned up interesting results, such as a new, more precise measurement of the W boson’s mass.
Because the Tevatron and LHC experiments search for the Higgs through slightly different means, the combined results make a compelling case for the particle at this energy. But neither collaborations’ findings pass the rigorous statistical significance required to claim a discovery in particle physics.
“We see some tantalizing evidence but not significant enough to make a stronger statement,” said Roser.
Though he is cautiously optimistic about the findings, he says that he wouldn’t bet his house or even his neighbor’s house for a while.
By the end of 2012, the LHC should quadruple its current amount of data, which may allow scientists to definitively confirm or rule out these Higgs hints. Many physicists are hoping that, in addition to the Higgs verification.