'God particle' may be discovered soon


THE LARGE Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) in Switzerland is working so well that it may discover a mysterious particle years ahead of schedule, one of its lead scientists has said.

Belfast-born Dr Steve Myers, director of accelerators and technology at Cern, gave a lecture last night in Trinity College Dublin hosted by Astronomy Ireland in which he said the performance of the collider had exceeded all expectations.

The collider is the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator and has been running since September 2008. Particles are accelerated to near the speed of light and scientists monitor their collisions to see what emerges.

Cern’s ultimate goal is to prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs boson. Particle physicists have theorised that the Higgs boson is the missing link which explains the standard model of how matter is composed.

It has been called the “God particle” or the “stuff that makes stuff stuff” as, without it, there is a mystery as to how objects get their mass.

Dr Myers said 2010 was an “exceptional year” and the collider’s performance since the start of this year has also been outstanding. As a result, the collider will not shut down as planned at the end of this year but will go on until the end of 2012 instead.

The shutdown was planned to allow for it to be revved up to full power in 2014. However, Dr Myers said they had been receiving so much data that they may be able to discover the Higgs boson within two years, rather than five.

“The performance of the detectors and of the machine means that even at a lower energy we could discover the Higgs or disprove its existence,” he said.