Hints of new particle rumored to fade, but data analysis continues

LHC scientists hope to present latest results in August

ATLAS experiment at LHC

RUMOR HAS IT  Scientists are anxious to learn whether the Large Hadron Collider experiments, ATLAS (shown) and CMS, have detected a new particle. Online rumors suggest hints of the particle are evaporating, but researchers say it’s too soon to tell.

Claudia Marcelloni De Oliveira/CERN

Particle physics fans are just going to have to wait.

Rumors swirling on the internet are casting doubt on hints of a new particle reported by scientists at the particle physics laboratory CERN in Geneva. But researchers say it’s still too soon to know whether the particle exists or not.

“Currently the data are still being recorded and analyzed and it is too early to conclude,” says Beate Heinemann of the University of California, Berkeley. “We hope to be able to present the new data in early August.” Heinemann is the deputy spokesperson of ATLAS, an experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. ATLAS scientists, along with those from a second LHC experiment, CMS, reported signs of the new particle in December (SN: 1/9/16, p. 7).

Physicists have rumored on Twitter and on blogs that evidence of the particle is disappearing with additional data — an outcome that would disappoint hordes of eager scientists.

After CMS and ATLAS researchers reported an unexpected bump in their data, physicists went into a frenzy (SN: 5/28/16, p. 11), posting hundreds of papers about the result online at arXiv.org.

But with the data they had in hand, physicists couldn’t tell if the signal was real, or just a random fluctuation that would vanish as quickly as it had appeared. Since May, the LHC has been colliding protons at a fever pitch (SN Online: 5/9/16). 

Physics writer Emily Conover has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Chicago. She is a two-time winner of the D.C. Science Writers’ Association Newsbrief award.

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