At the LHC, the "God Particle" is Running Out of Places to Hide

By Veronique Greenwood | August 29, 2011 4:12 pm


After several years of nail-biting delays and breakdowns, the Large Hadron Collider, one of the few science experiments to become a household name, got underway in March of 2010. The search for the Higgs boson, the elusive “God particle” that would resolve several problems in the Standard Model of particle physics, was front-page news.

But in the last 18 months, as the LHC has scanned through various energies, the Higgs has not showed itself. And at a conference in Mumbai on August 22, CERN scientists revealed news that set the physics community humming: in the energies so far explored, there’s a 95% probability that the Higgs doesn’t exist. Amir Azcel, writing in a guest blog at Scientific American, explains these numbers, considers the tumult in particle physics that will occur should the Higgs prove no more than theoretical, and asks whether Stephen Hawking has just won his infamous bet against the Higgs:

A few years ago, celebrated British physicist Stephen Hawking was widely reported in the press to have placed a provocative public bet that the LHC (along with all particle accelerators that preceded it) would never find the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” believed responsible for having imbued massive particles with their mass when the universe was very young.

Read more at Scientific American.

Image courtesy of CERN

  • Pietr Hitzig

    Beware, Arthur Clarke was here 60 years ago. The Nine Billion Names of God.

  • Anadish Kumar Pal

    “We know something is missing; we simply don’t quite know what this new something might be,” the missing link is what I conceived in December 2007 and thereafter proceeded to experimentally find it in fall 2010. For more details on my research you can visit my site and wait a bit, till I disclose the details in a book, near the the date of publication of my first disclosure in January 2011 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

    Sure, something much more interesting than ‘Higgs boson’ has already been discovered. It’s frequency is …., it’s spin is … and it’s anti-particle is (or are…) (well, just might be patient for a little while more!). CERN came out so many times with false alarm and is still keeping you in wait; I assure you this news is rock solid — not going to waver with time (However, does mass change on its own with time? It does a bit, really! :).

  • Luke Scientiae

    “Congress may feel that even though its 1993 decision to cancel the American alternative to CERN—the Superconducting Super Collider—was generally met with chagrin by the American physics community, it may have been the right move one after all: to spend billions of taxpayer dollars in search of a particle that likely does not exist would have been wasteful.”

    Yes, except for all the jobs it created and the fact that there’s no telling which aspects of fundamental research will prove useful, or even indispensible in the future – something politicians just can’t seem to understand. (By contast, there’s always money for war and bailing out bankers.) Those unconvinced by that should read about how Maxwell came upon his equations, or how NMR was discovered – the single most poweful analysis technique in organic chemistry.

    Besides, a large part of doing science is testing hypotheses with experiments. When you do that, you run the risk of having them disproven. But that is not worthless; it gives us a chance to rethink what we consider to be true, to revise our understanding. In science a negative result, however frustrating, is still information, still valuable.

    If you’re not prepared to acknowledge that and risk it, then you’re not prepared to do science. Hard to see the difference between that and an endoresement of ignorance.

  • Yousuf

    It really made no sense to think that space was made up of a type of molasses, as the Higg’s Theory suggests gives other particles their mass. It’s more likely that the mechanism for mass lies at at Planck scale, where mass is simply the amount of energy occupying a single Planck length of space.

  • Iain

    Gosh, I always thought mass was a side effect of gravity, gravity is always attractive and mass is always positive.

  • Wow

    Ok, so maybe Higgs doesn’t exist. Life is MUCH better this way. Why hunt for it? Because if it did exist, within 200 years humans could make anything exist out of empty space… first atoms of certain elements, then molecules, organisms, and eventually machines, buildings, other humans… all exact duplicates right down to the boson. That means you could scan yourself and transport yourself to anywhere that could print you out. Or make hundreds of copies exactly as you were when you got scanned. Or print yourself out every day for millions of years. Hey, you could even learn to design people the way you want and print them like MS WORD. I know, you probably think “how Cool!”– trust me its NOT.
    Losing your grasp of self for eternity could easily fit the definition of HELL/ eternal damnation.
    Seems completely crazy but this is not impossible if the Higgs exists. Something out of nothing?! God alone should have that power.
    Thankfully, the Universe is still too complex for humans to understand.
    Phew! close one ; P

  • Sylwester Kornowski

    There are in existence the massless photons and the Einstein formula E=mc^2 which suggests that nature can transform pure energy into mass. We know also that near electric charges photons sometimes “transform” into particles carrying mass. This forces to postulate the Higgs mechanism. But a pure-energy–>mass transition says nothing about properties and phenomena associated with the Einstein spacetime. Can the Einstein spacetime have mass density not equal to zero i.e. can mass be more fundamental property than pure energy? Can particles acquire their mass due to the flows in the Einstein spacetime? Can the Einstein spacetime components carry the pure energies? The gluons and photons are the massless particles (the pure energies) so why they have the different properties? Why there are the eight gluons and only two photons (i.e. the elementary left-handed and right-handed photons – their associations lead to the other photons)? Can the gluons transform into photons outside the strong fields? Why it is possible? Such processes lead to the Feigenbaum universality and to his constant equal to 4.6692016… So once more: can mass be the more fundamental property than pure energy? Can we eliminate the Higgs mechanism? You can find the answers to these questions within the Everlasting Theory. The Everlasting Theory leads to the eight gluons and six basic SHAM quarks. We must reformulate the Standard Model. I claim that inertial mass is more fundamental than pure energy. Properties of photons and gluons are different because their carriers, i.e. the Einstein spacetime components which have mass, have different properties in strong and electromagnetic fields.

  • Jeff

    The amount of techno babble and bs’ing that goes on in these comment boards is laughable.

    That said, I would appreciate knowing which energies they have explored and which hypothesized energies are still untouched. Perhaps how long they expect the rest of the exploration process to take before they go back to start eliminating their 5% uncertainty?

    With fermilab going offline, I would imagine that CERN will still be indispensable even if they can’t find the Higgs.

  • Zoltan Kiss

    Looking for the “last particle” whatever the name we call it – is a mistake!

    This is not just becasue in this case it would automatically mean the Universe has its end, but most importantly for the pure physical fact that in the case of “particle based nature” time as such could not be defined.

    Nature is process based and our measurements depend on the intensity of events we measure. If slow enough we measure the process – as particle.

  • Barry Johnstone.

    Damn! It must be here – somewhere! I thought I had it a minute ago………………

  • David

    As soon as E=Mc2 was understood, humans built a bomb with the knowledge. What would be the destructive potential of understanding the higgs?

  • Mike

    I saw the higgs once…o wait that was a ufo

  • Jayarava

    Can we stop calling it the “God particle” please? It’s nothing to do with God!

  • Electronic Old Men

    Actually, Jayarava, my religion is centered entirely around the belief that doing things that annoy you, no matter how utterly insignificant they may be, is the most godly way to live.

  • MArk

    @Wow – you so crazy

  • Cathy

    I recently signed up for the LHC @ Home so my main computer is happily crunching away at some calculations to assist in the search while I’m at work. It’s a nice feeling to be able to lend a hand to scientists on the other side of the world.

  • michael harris

    Perhaps the ‘Higgs boson’ exists within consciousness and not in ‘the world out there’.

  • Charles Boyer

    @Luke Scientiae: it’s worth pointing out the CERN has already produced some very profound things.

    We’re using it now. It’s called the World Wide Web.

  • alma

    in wikipedia. elemental potassium is not found in nature becasue it cannot coexist with water and air or it has a violent reaction with a violet flame that ignites hydrogen.
    potassium element is found only in supernovas.
    when it meets with air or water it explodes into a violet flame. ignites hydrogen (the sun is made of hydrogen gas)
    God particle? yessss! moleculart weight of 19. 19 is 9+1=1 which equals number of God.
    violet flame = flame of creation.

  • sk1951

    In laymen terms…they don’t know anything about a “higgs” god partical yet. It was a leaked rumor.

    I don’t think that the universe is molded around Einstein. There is NO mathmatical certantiy of anything. Keep an open mind. It is “as we know it today…”

    ‘There is ONE certantiy…NOTHING…will ever prove or disprove that god(s) exist or do not exist. For me…the creationism theory can just as easily be part of a gods plan as not. I don’t see how trying to prove a static universe will prove that a god exists especially when we can “see” that everything is in flux every where. To argue against an evolving universe is as insane as the witch hunts. IMHO. While on the subject…religion has been the worst thing to ever happen to god or man or earth for that matter.

  • newtspeare

    Hawking, a man so gullible that he believes in time travel and black holes, and even thinks Blair was a good prime minister. Yet he cannot bring himself to believe in the Higgs. Just shows what complete nonsense the Higgs really is.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar