Particle hunt off, collider comes down

Hints of a major particle discovery couldn’t stop the wrecking crew. Scene of an all-out push this fall to find signs of the so-called Higgs boson, the Large Electron Positron (LEP) collider is now “an official demolition site,” says Neil Calder, spokesman for the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), LEP’s home near Geneva.

Although LEP was slated for dismantling to make way for a more powerful collider, CERN had extended its life in September after scientists caught what appeared to be glimpses of the long-sought Higgs (SN: 9/23/00, p. 196: Most-Wanted Particle Appears, Perhaps). Because it presumably bestows mass on other particles, the Higgs is central to physics theory.

Even with more evidence for the particle (SN: 11/4/00, p. 294: Signs of mass-giving particle get stronger), proponents of keeping LEP alive couldn’t win over CERN Director General Luciano Maiani. He found the new data insufficient to justify construction delays for the Large Hadron Collider, LEP’s successor at CERN, and $65 million in extra costs to keep LEP going, says Calder.

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