Elusive Higgs boson in sight?

EAST LANSING, Mich. — After 40 years of searching, physicists have the elusive Higgs boson in their sights. Wade Fisher, Michigan State University assistant professor of physics, presented the team’s results today at a physics conference in La Thuile, Italy.

The Higgs boson is a hypothetical particle thought responsible for giving mass to matter, a critical but still unproven component of the long-standing Standard Model of particle physics. If a Higgs boson is created in a high-energy particle collision, it immediately decays into lighter more stable particles before even the world’s best detectors and fastest computers can snap a picture of it.

To find one, physicists retraced the path of these secondary particles and ruled out processes that mimic its signal. Fisher, who coordinates the Collider Detector at Fermilab and DZero teams at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, however, suggests the elusive Higgs boson may nearly be cornered.

“We see a distinct Higgs-like signature that cannot be easily explained without the presence of something new,” Fisher said. “If what we’re seeing really is the Higgs boson, it will be a major milestone for the world physics community and will place the keystone in the most successful particle physics theory in history.”

The results, which have been collected over several years at Fermilab, are similar to those found by teams working at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. But even though the results are close, scientists are not quite ready to claim a definitive discovery, said Dmitri Denisov, a DZero spokesperson and physicist at Fermilab.

“There is still much work ahead before the scientific community can say for sure whether the Higgs boson exists,” he said. “Based on these exciting hints, we are working as quickly as possible to further improve our analysis methods and squeeze the last ounce out of our data.”

CDF is an international experiment of 430 physicists from 58 institutions in 15 countries. DZero is an international experiment conducted by 446 physicists from 82 institutions in 18 countries. Funding for both experiments come from DOE’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation and a number of international funding agencies.

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