News / Science & Technology

Fermilab Scientists Optimistic About Finding Higgs Boson Particle

Kane Farabaugh

Scientists at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland say they are encouraged by new data suggesting their Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful atom-smasher, is one step closer to finding an elusive sub-atomic particle known as the Higgs boson.  The so-called “God particle” was the object of a three-decades-long search by particle physicists at Fermilab’s now-idled Tevatron Accelerator in suburban Chicago. They greeted the news from Geneva with guarded optimism.

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is just a few years old, but data streaming in after it smashes subatomic particles together at near-light speed has scientists around the world excited.

University of Florida professor Jacobo Konigsberg has contributed to CERN’s hunt for the “Higgs boson.” If they find it, he says, it would solve one of the most enduring mysteries of physics. “The mystery of mass in the universe is one of the most fundamental questions we have," he said.

Konigsberg is on a quest to answer that fundamental question, halfway around the world from the machine that is likely to find it.

He is pouring through the results of the LHC’s latest findings at the Energy Department’s Fermi National Laboratory in suburban Chicago.

In a control room directly linked to CERN, Konigsberg watches test results and information.  He says the recent announcement by his colleagues in Geneva pinpoints a specific location where the Higgs is likely to exist, if it exists at all. “The number of events we expect in the data in this region is higher than if the Higgs [boson] wasn’t there.  So people are very excited about the possibility that this could be the beginning of unearthing, if you will, the Higgs [boson]," he said.

But at Fermilab, scientist Robert Roser greets the news with skepticism. “These are both kind of like one in 50, one in 100 probability that the background could fluctuate up to be a signal.  So not very compelling at all yet," he said.

Roser visited the CERN laboratories in the days leading up to the announcement of progress in the search for the Higgs.  He says there is also caution in Europe about what the latest results mean. “And there was no popping of champagne corks… it was pretty much business as usual going on in there.  People were talking about their individual analyses and what’s going on… they weren’t giving each other high fives saying we got this thing settled.  So I think in Europe there is an air of caution," he said.

“You cannot yet rule out that this small axis of events is from other processes that are mimicking the Higgs.  So unfortunately at the moment the situation is ambiguous," said Konigsberg.

But the development demonstrates the LHC’s power. It has eclipsed Fermilab’s Tevatron Accelerator, which went offline in September. “The LHC was meant to surpass the Tevatron.  It was meant to eventually find the Higgs, and the Tevatron established a lot of the techniques that are today used by the LHC," said Konigsberg.

There is still a chance the Tevatron could yield the results scientists are looking for.

Though it’s turned off, Roser and his team are still sifting through data and expect to release their findings in March.

If it exists at all, Roser expects the Tevatron or the LHC to find the Higgs boson soon.  “If it's there, we will find it in 2012.  If it’s not there, we’ll say that too in 2012," he said.

Roser says if they do find the Higgs boson, scientists could spend the next several decades trying to understand it.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid