After 40 years, more evidence is being reported Wednesday that the end of the biggest manhunt in the history of physics might finally be in sight.

Physicists from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., say they have found a bump in their data that might be the long-sought Higgs boson, a hypothesized particle that is responsible for endowing other elementary particles with mass.

The signal, in data collected over the last several years at Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator, agrees roughly with results announced last December from two independent experimental groups working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, outside Geneva.

“Based on the current Tevatron data and results compiled through December 2011 by other experiments, this is the strongest hint of the existence of a Higgs boson,” said the report, which will be presented on Wednesday by Wade Fisher of Michigan State University to a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy.

None of these results, either singly or collectively, are strong enough for scientists to claim victory. But the recent run of reports has encouraged them to think that the elusive particle, which is the key to mass and diversity in the universe, is within sight, perhaps as soon as this summer.

Read the rest here.


This is intriguing for multiple reasons, not the least of which to me is that the trusty Tevatron in Batavia, Illinois [which I actually visited once upon a time!] has been able to participate productively in the search for the Higgs Boson, despite its lesser capacity!

Personally, I'm intrigued as hell and can't WAIT for more news!

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Replies to This Discussion

Promises, promises!

There are Bible believers and Bible skeptics, and there are Big Bang believers and Big Bang skeptics.

Everything from nothing is so much like religion. I find it helpful to remind myself that however complex the mathematics, it merely approximates reality.

Loren, help me out here. I'm just an amatuer that finds physics fascinating. But I seem to remember something in my school science courses about the difference between discovery and evidence. Higher burden for anouncing a discovery than evidence, right? So is this a discovery or evidence? And could you explain the difference so that a schlub like me could understand? Thanks, man. Whichever, it is fascinating. Still much work to be done. Please keep us posted.

Well, last I looked I wasn't on the invite list to the research team at CERN, but here's my take on it:

A discovery might be the work of a single scientist or researcher. Evidence might be what supports that discovery, but the kicker is: how consistent is that evidence? How repeatable are the results? Can someone else duplicate them? If I build my own rig in Cleveland to replicate what someone else did in Bombay, and the results are comparable, hey, we may have something here! If not, then someone has to look at either his technique or mine (or likely BOTH!) to figure out where the stitch is being dropped.

Both CERN and Fermilab sound like they are looking at the same thing. The problem is that there is likely noise in the data or other difficulties in getting the "wheat from the chaff," if you will. When the data is consistent, when there are no ambiguities, and there is no alternative explanation, the hypothesis of the Higgs Boson will be come a THEORY ... and not before.

And let's keep in mind, even those who are doing the research are willing to acknowledge that the model that predicts the Higgs may NOT prove out, whereupon they have to start all over. It's a bitch, but such are the rigors of science.

A shame the bible-thumpers across the street aren't willing to do the same....

Thanks very much for this explanation.  Somewhat clearer. I have always admired that scientists are willing to "throw out the baby with the bath water" when new evidence comes up and draw a new bath. Rational thought. It' a bitch. Again, thank you.

Tony one reason this is exciting is that the Tevetron and LHC at CERN used different methods that measured different aspects of particle decay but both found similar findings. Each experiment has a confidence level of 0.5 percent. To declare a definitive finding requires a 5 sigma or 0.0002 percent probability of an error. Unfortunately since the Tevatron was defunded and is now shuttered there won't be any more results from Fermilab. Hopefully the LHC will see stronger results in 2012 with increased energies. Most physicists want at least 2 experiments each separately having 5 sigma and now only the LHC can do that. Even then it might not be completely accepted so the loss of the Tevatron is a real blow to particle physics.

Jessica, thank you. It definately makes much more sense now. Didn't know about Fermilab. What a shame. I think it has been shown that basic research pays off, over and over again. Truly the gift that keeps giving.

Once again, from this non-scientist amatuer, self proclaimed science geek/nerd/boffin, thank you.

This is pure sensationalism. Why not wait until the actual results?

This paragraph illustrates my point:

None of these results, either singly or collectively, are strong enough for scientists to claim victory. But the recent run of reports has encouraged them to think that the elusive particle, which is the key to mass and diversity in the universe, is within sight, perhaps as soon as this summer.

I do hope USA science blossoms as a result of this economic downturn. What better way to stimulate jobs than for research, instead of war. And there are those why say the war is not brought us out of the Great Depression.

or Google "Did WWII end the depression?"



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