End of Higgs Search Will Confirm or Refute the Standard Model of Physics 'Within Months'

By Alexis C. Madrigal

The number one particle on physicists most-wanted list, the Higgs boson, has played a key role in our understanding of the universe. As first predicted in 1964, the Higgs is theorized to be responsible for giving all other particles mass. Only one problem: no one's ever glimpsed one in any experiment ever. And we've been looking. The reason we run high-energy particle collisions is that all kinds of exotic particles can be found in the rubble. Or, more properly, the signatures of their decay into more prosaic subatomic bits can be detected.

Scientists at Fermilab's Tevatron particle collider have been looking for a long, long time -- and they've made significant strides in recent years in constraining the possible attributes of the elusive particle. But the Tevatron doesn't appear to create high enough energy collisions to find the Higgs.

Now, though, CERN's new atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, has provided what a physicist called a "tantalizing" hint of precisely where the Higgs may be. In fact, "within months" we should have enough data to know for sure where the Higgs is... if it actually exists.

And that's really the most fascinating possibility. If scientists can't find the Higgs even at LHC energies, then the entire model of standard physics will have to be rethought. And there's nothing better in physics than experimental data ruining the theory.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/07/end-of-higgs-search-will-confirm-or-refute-the-standard-model-of-physics-within-months/242466/