'God particle' rumour quelled

Rumoured evidence of the so-called 'God particle' has been heavily downplayed by a spokeswoman for the Large Hadron Collider.

Rumoured evidence of the so-called "God particle" has been heavily downplayed by a spokeswoman for the Large Hadron Collider.

"Only … results that have undergone all the necessary scientific checks by the [ATLAS] Collaboration should be taken seriously," Fabiola Gianotti, spokeswoman for the collaboration, told a blog run by the scientific journal Nature Monday in response to questions about the possible discovery of the Higgs boson, popularly known as the "God particle."

Higgs boson - The God particle

  • A boson is a subatomic particle; it's smaller than nucleons and atoms.
  • It's theorized that The Higgs boson is what imparts mass to other particles. If found, the Higgs boson would explain what gives nature's fundamental particles mass.
  • Leon Lederman, a 1988 Nobel Prize winner, labeled the Higgs boson the "God particle." Professor David Miller explains the Higgs boson in a BBC article this way: "A former prime minister enters the room. All the workers she passes are strongly attracted to her. As she moves through the room, the cluster of admirers around her create resistance to her movement. This is how a particle moves through the Higgs field. The field clusters around a particle, resisting its motion and giving it mass." 
  • It is believed that the energy levels scientists could reach at Large Hadron Collider (LHC) facility will help them find the Higgs boson.

The rumour originated from an internal memo from four researchers at ATLAS, one of several international collaborations of researchers at the LHC, the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator, located near Geneva, Switzerland.

The document was posted April 21 on the science blog "Not Even Wrong," which belongs to Peter Woit, a mathematician at Columbia University in New York.

The memo reported a signal that could be caused by the decay of the much sought-after Higgs particle. The posting led to a flurry of comments and speculation both on the blog and across the internet.

However, Gianotti said signals like the one reported in the memo show up frequently during data analysis. Typically, further scrutiny shows them to be false, she added.

The Higgs boson is supposed to impart mass to other particles and is seen as the last piece of the puzzle to prove the Standard Model of particle physics.

The Standard Model — with its familiar particles like electrons and photons, and less intuitive particles like muons and Higgs bosons — has proved accurate in experiments, but there are gaps in the theory that the Higgs boson would fill, if it existed.

Hunting for the Higgs boson is one of the main goals of the $10-billion LHC, which features a ring 27 kilometres in diameter and began operation in 2008.