The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will start smashing its first protons in October and run through the winter to keep it ahead in the international race to find the elusive “God particle”.
The CERN laboratory’s decision to operate the £4 billion particle accelerator all year round makes it unlikely that the LHC will be beaten to the discovery of the Higgs boson, even after a serious fault forced a year-long shutdown, Lyn Evans, the project’s leader, told The Times.
The delay has raised the prospect that the Tevatron, a less powerful accelerator at Fermilab in Illinois, might be first to find the particle that is believed to give matter its mass. It has recently narrowed down the search and its scientists hope that they might find hints of the boson next year.
The decision to keep the LHC open over the winter, when atom smashers are usually closed down to avoid peak electricity charges, will make up for lost time and put CERN back in pole position, Dr Evans said. “This will give us a shot much earlier,” he said at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival . “I always wish Fermilab good luck, but they will have a hard job now. I’ve no doubt that they will publish more limits for the Higgs, but it’s going to be very hard for them to go much further. That’s a job for the LHC.”
The Higgs boson is the only Standard Model particle that has not yet been observed. Experimental detection of the Higgs boson would help explain the origin of mass in the universe. More specifically, the Higgs boson would explain the difference between the massless photon, which mediates electromagnetism, and the massive W and Z bosons, which mediate the weak force. If the Higgs boson exists, it is an integral and pervasive component of the material world.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva, which came online on September 10, 2008 is scheduled to become fully operational by late 2009, and is expected to provide experimental evidence either confirming or refuting the Higgs boson’s existence. An accident in September 2008 has the LHC temporarily out of commission; ongoing experiments at Fermilab continue previous attempts at detection (although hindered by the lower energy of the Fermilab Tevatron accelerator). It has been reported that Fermilab physicists suggest the odds of Tevatron detecting the Higgs boson are between 50% and 96%, depending on its precise mass.