Higgs hunt may stop short of naming “God particle”

Jul 3, 2012

Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider are likely to announce the most convincing evidence of the Higgs boson particle to-date at the CERN event on Wednesday, but not name it as such over an abundance of caution. Although official word isn't expected to come until tomorrow, insiders involved in the research tell Nature that "in practice you would have to be monstrously sceptical not to be convinced by what we have now" with the evidence signal likely to be confirmed at between 4.5 and 5 sigma.

That's just shy of the 5 sigma scientists involved in hunting for the Higgs boson have set as their goal, a figure which would mean a 0.00006-percent chance of mis-identification. Both ATLAS and CMS experiments are coming in at roughly the same point, the physicist sources claim; "without a doubt, we have a discovery," one member of the ATLAS team said, though asked to be kept anonymous.

Meanwhile, much is being read into the fact that four of the original theorists behind the Higgs mechanism back in the 1960s have confirmed they will be present at the announcement event on Wednesday. François Englert, Carl Hagen, Peter Higgs and Gerald Guralnik will all be in attendance, but CERN head of comms James Gillies, insists "things are still evolving here ... until the spokespersons of the ATLAS and CMS collaborations stand up in front of the audience, it's premature to speculate."

That reticence is apparently because exactly what they'll say is still being decided. "The final decisions on what to say on Wednesday are still being made" the CMS source says.

If the Higgs boson really is identified, efforts will swing into action to see how much it matches the so-called standard model predictions, and whether it's possible that other, hitherto unknown particles are affecting its decay rates, among other things.

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