Pesky 'God Particle' Continues to Elude Scientists

Wednesday, 27 Jul 2011 01:39 PM

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There are no atheists in foxholes, the saying goes, and odds are there aren’t all that many physicists, either. But some physicists monitoring an atom smasher in a 300-foot deep hole are trying to pinpoint the existence of God once and for all — the so-called “God particle,” that is.

Large Hadron collider, God particle, scientists, research
Superconducting magnets stretch around the Large Hadron collider outside Geneva 2007 file photo. The particle accelerator sends high-energy subatomic particles around a 17-mile ring of superconducting magnets. (AP Photo)
After hints during the weekend that confirmation of the existence of Higgs boson, also known by the more common-folk-friendly nickname of the “God particle,” was imminent, physicists admitted instead that the answer continues to elude them, according to The Telegraph in London.

The physicists running the Large Hadron Collider, buried 300 feet underground on the border between France and Switzerland, acknowledged during a news conference on Monday that they didn’t find the holy grail — yet. So the search goes on.

Telegraph reporter Andy Bloxham explains the overall issue this way: “There are two general schools of thought . . . on what has been nicknamed 'the God particle': those who believe it exists and are waiting for it to be found; and those who think it's fiction and do something else with their time.”

The Large Hadron Collider is a 17-mile ring of superconducting magnets. The machine propels two beams of particles around the ring at close to the speed of light — and then smashes them into each other.

On the plus side, even though the scientists haven’t succeeded yet, they think they can see the light at the end of the ring. Increasing amounts of data created from the atom-smashing experiments should tell them whether the particle exists within 18 months.

If they find it, they expect it to explain how particles come to have mass and provide the final piece for the Standard Model of physics set forth in the 1960s and ’70s, the Telegraph reported. If they are forced to accept an agnostic conclusion that the task is impossible, there might as well be a book burning of useless texts.

Simply put — because the Higgs boson concept is anything but simple — the God particle is considered the glue holding things together. If researchers don’t find it, they’ll have to find another glue, Bloxham writes.

Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, told reporters: “I would say we can settle the question of the Higgs boson, the Shakespearean question ‘to be or not to be’ at the end of next year.”

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