Europe’s particle physics lab, Cern, is losing ground rapidly in the race to discover the elusive Higgs boson, or “God particle”, its US rival claims.
The particle, whose existence has been predicted by theoreticians, would help to explain why matter has mass.
Finding the Higgs is a major goal of Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
But the US Fermilab says the odds of its Tevatron accelerator detecting the famed particle first are now 50-50 at worst, and up to 96% at best.
Both machines hope to see evidence of the Higgs by colliding sub-atomic matter at very high speeds. If it exists, the Higgs should emerge from the debris.
The LHC has been out of action since last September when an accident damaged some of the magnets that make up its giant colliding ring.
Project leader Lyn Evans conceded the enforced downtime might cost the European lab one of the biggest prizes in physics.
Cern and Fermilab officials squared up at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago. …
“If they do find the Higgs, good luck to them. But I think it’s unlikely they will find it before the LHC comes online. They may well be in a position to get a hint of the Higgs but I don’t think they’ll be in a position to discover it.
“And of course, if it’s not in the mass range they think it is, they have no chance of discovering it at all. Pier Oddone put the odds at 50-50 but I think it’s less than that.
“In one year, we will be competitive. After that, we will swamp them.”
The competition was healthy for “both parties”, added Professor Evans. Though missing out on the Higgs would be a “sour consolation”, he admitted.
“The trouble is, the LHC has been sold on being built for the Higgs.
“But don’t forget, there is also a whole spectrum of physics to be investigated at the LHC which the Tevatron can never do.”