Higgs boson case strengthened by new CERN data analysis

Graphic traces of proton-proton collisions measured by the Graphic traces of proton-proton collisions measured by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) during the search for the Higgs boson. (May 25, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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New results from the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva "strongly indicate" that the particle discovered last year is a Higgs boson, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said.

The particle, which scientists said in July was probably the long-sought Higgs, is "looking more and more" like the missing link in the Standard Model, a theory explaining how the universe is built, the organization, known as CERN, said in a statement today. The results, based on analysis of 2 1/2 times more data than was available last year, were presented at a conference in Italy.

It remains an "open question" whether the particle is the Higgs or the lightest of several other bosons, and answering that question will take more time, CERN said. Its existence would help scientists gain a better understanding of how galaxies hold together, and could open a door to exploring other parts of physics such as superparticles or dark matter that telescopes can't detect.

The results "are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is," said Joe Incandela, a spokesman for the CMS research project, one of the two collaborations looking for the Higgs at CERN.

PARTICLE FIELDS

Particle physics is the study of the elemental building blocks that make up matter. These particles, with names such as quark, fermion, lepton and boson, can't be subdivided. They exist and interact within several unseen "fields" that permeate the universe.

The field that generates mass for objects is named for U.K. physicist Peter Higgs, who in the 1960s was one of the first scientists to outline a working theory on how elemental particles achieve mass.

The new particle has several properties consistent with how the Higgs boson is postulated to behave, CERN said.

The data are the latest from the $10.5 billion Large Hadron Collider, a 27-kilometer (17-mile) circumference particle accelerator buried on the border of France and Switzerland. CERN has had 10,000 scientists working on the research, in which billions of subatomic particles are hurled at each other at velocities approaching the speed of light.

CERN shut down the collider last month for maintenance after its first three years of operation. It's scheduled to resume in 2015, CERN said.

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