Large Hadron Collider to prove 'God Particle theory within two years'
The existence of the so-called "God Particle" Higgs Boson theory could be proved within two years or it probably does not exist, Large Hadron Collider scientists have said.
Officials at the Swiss-based accelerator have announced that the €6bn machine’s closure had been put back by a year because it was running so well.
Scientists had been due to shut down the accelerator at the end of this year for a major refit but that has been put back until the end of 2012.
The decision means that scientists will have another year to carry out physics experiments while the machine is running at half power. It will then shut for 15 months before reopening to run at full capacity.
The beam energy for 2011 will be 3.5 TeV (trillion electron volts). It is designed to run at a maximum of 7 TeV.
Scientists believe that it may even be possible to fulfil some of its major aims – to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson or a theory called supersymmetry – at the lower power.
On Monday, researchers disclosed that they had hoped to have compiled enough data by the end of the year to confirm or reject claims about the Higgs Boson.
They also hope to produce data pointing to the nature of dark matter, the discovery of a whole “new class of unanticipated subatomic curiosities” or the existence of extra dimensions, the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Washington was told.
If the “Higgs” was not found, physicists would have to reassess the “Standard Model”, or the theory of subatomic structure that ranks as one of physics' biggest achievements.
"By the end of next year, we hope very much that we will be able to say something about the Higgs," Felicitas Pauss, head of international relations at the CERN nuclear research centre, told the conference.
Some scientists say that failing to find the Higgs boson would “actually be more intriguing than finding it”.
Nicholas Hadley, from the University of Maryland's who is a member of the research team for the LHC's Compact Muon Solenoid detector, told reporters: "If we don't see it, we will be very excited, because it means that there's something very brand-new.
"But to say we looked and we didn't find anything ... we'll probably volunteer to have other people stand up here in front of you if that day comes."
The schedule foresees beams back in the LHC and running through to mid December.
There will then be a short technical stop over the year before resuming in early 2012.
Even at the reduced level, the Geneva-based collider is running at more than three times the previous record.
The Large Hadron Collider sends beams of protons in opposite directions around the tunnel at close to the speed of light.
These cross and collide, smashing into each other with enormous energy.
The ultimate aim is to collide particles head-on at 14 TeV to recreate the conditions in the moments after the Big Bang, regarded as the creation of the Universe.