Fermilab could beat CERN to the punch

From Jacksonville, Fla., at a meeting of the American Physical Society

If it exists, the Higgs boson would explain why matter has mass. A new particle accelerator due to start operations next year at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva should finally find the Higgs, physicists say.

The more powerful an accelerator, the more energetic the particles it smashes together and the heavier the particles that those collisions can create.

The Higgs boson has long been estimated to weigh up to the equivalent of 200 protons. That might make it just too heavy for the most powerful existing accelerator, the Tevatron at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill, to create. But it would be well within reach of CERN’s new machine, the Large Hadron Collider.

But Fermilab physicists now say that they might have a shot at discovering the Higgs within the next 2 years, possibly before the CERN collider could.

Fermilab teams announced new and higher estimates of the masses of two known particles. Those revised masses, according to standard theory, imply a Higgs lighter than 150 protons. Of course, that’s assuming the theory itself doesn’t need revision—something physicists aren’t sure of.

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