More clues are expected this week in the worldwide hunt for an elusive sub-atomic particle, the Higgs boson, that is the missing piece in the standard model of physics.
Sometimes referred to as the “God particle” because it seems to be everywhere, the Higgs boson is believed to give objects mass, but physicists armed with the world’s most potent atom-smashers have yet to identify it.
Ever since it was first proposed in the 1960s, international physicists have endeavoured to find the particle, and wondered what it might mean for scientific theory if it cannot be found.
In December 2011, scientists at the European Centre for Nuclear Research announced “tantalising hints” that the sought-after particle was hiding inside a narrow range of mass.
The clues came from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider – the world’s largest atom-smasher, located along the French-Swiss border – showing a likely range for the Higgs boson between 115 to 127 gigaelectronvolts.
U.S. experiments echoed those findings, though in a slightly larger range.
On Monday, scientists working at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Midwestern Illinois will announce their latest Higgs search results based on data from Tevatron experiments there.
The Tevatron was a potent atom-smasher that began its collider work in 1985 and closed down last year, but physicists have continued to scrutinise its data in the hunt for the Higgs.
Then, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider will unveil their latest findings on July 4.
While many Higgs enthusiasts have taken to the internet to offer theories on what might be announced, experts have dismissed the chatter as pure speculation.
If physicists can confirm the existence of the Higgs boson, the announcement would rank among the most important breakthroughs of the last century.