News / Science & Technology

At FermiLab, end of Search for 'God Particle' Nears

US Department of Energy’s Fermilab
US Department of Energy’s Fermilab
Kane Farabaugh

A twenty-five year search for one of the keys to understanding the structure of the universe is coming to an end at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab in suburban Chicago.  The Tevatron Accelerator, a sub-atomic particle collider, is scheduled to go offline later this year.  When that happens, the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, in Geneva, Switzerland, will fully take over the search for the so-called "God Particle."  But, the Tevatron is not going quietly into retirement.

For more than 15 years, scientist Robert Roser has searched for the elusive "Higgs Boson."

"The Higgs Boson is a hypothetical particle that we believe exists to fix a flaw in the standard mode," said Robert Roser. "The standard model, to us, is our mathematical description of how the universe works.  The significant flaw in that model is that it doesn’t explain mass."

The discovery of the Higgs Boson - known to many as the "God Particle" - could give scientists the answers they seek to many of the biggest questions known to man.

"We’re asking the question of how the universe works, and why is it built the way it is built?"

To find the Higgs Boson at Fermilab, scientists use the Tevatron Accelerator to slam protons and anti-protons together.  In the stream of data that follows, scientists look for clues that the Higgs Boson exists.  So far, they haven’t found any such clues.  But Roser says they may have found something else.

"As we look at these huge data sets that we’ve acquired over the 10 years, we’re now putting out things that we’ve learned about that data," he said. "And so what you’re seeing here is evidence for perhaps a new particle and there will be other things that will come out over the coming months that will be just as interesting as this."

The discovery of what could be a previously unknown sub-atomic particle could also be the last major accomplishment of the Tevatron.

"All good things will come to an end, and this will be the end for the Tevatron.  It's had a glorious career, 25 years, which is very long in the accelerator field," said Pier Oddone.

Pier Oddone is the Director of Fermilab.  He says the funding needed to continue the research necessary to find the Higgs Boson, if it exists at all, exceeds Fermilab’s $400 million annual budget.

"It is one third the budget of the laboratory in Geneva Switzerland," he said.

The CERN laboratory in Geneva is home to the Large Hadron Collider.  Built in collaboration with Fermilab, it is a more powerful device than the Tevatron Accelerator.  When the Tevatron goes offline later this year, the focus in this area of physics will finally move from the United States to Europe.

"In this last two decades that has shifted where the facility in Geneva went ahead and built this formidable machine, which we were trying to build in Texas called the Superconducting Supercollider," said Oddone. "We closed ours but the Europeans went ahead with theirs, and that is what has led to this differentiation now in the funding of laboratories."

Even though Fermilab stands to lose some prestige when the Tevatron shuts down, scientists say the U.S. is still be well represented in the field of particle physics.  Since the Tevatron began colliding, Robert Roser says it has been an international effort, and it will continue to be one as the search goes on in Geneva.   

"There [are] fifteen nations that are participating on this experiment," said Roser. "Roughly 300 of the 600 collaborators on this experiment are from non-U.S. institutions.  So it’s very much a large multi-national or international collaboration.  All big science is these days."

After the Tevatron goes offline, it will continue to play a role at Fermilab.  Engineers plan to open previously inaccessible segments of the collider tunnel, where they will display part of the accelerator and detectors in an exhibit the public will be able to visit.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More