CERN turns up power to answer Higgs riddle

By Robert Evans, Reuters

GENEVA–Scientists hunting the Higgs boson, the sub-atomic particle believed to have played a vital role in the creation of the universe, decided on Monday to turn up the power in their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to try to prove its existence this year. The CERN research center near Geneva wants to prove or disprove the existence of an invisible “Higgs” field permeating the universe quickly, before the giant LHC machine is shut down for a long-term upgrade in late 2012. “This means more Higgs, more quickly,” said CERN spokesman James Gillies. The existence of the particle was postulated by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964 but has never been proved. According to the theory, the particle was the agent that made the stars, planets — and life — possible by giving mass to most elementary particles, the building blocks of the universe.

In the LHC, two beams of energy are fired in opposite directions around the 27-km (17-mile) pipe before slamming into each other, spawning particle collisions that recreate what happened a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, which brought the universe into existence 13.7 billion years ago. By boosting the energy of each beam — from 3.5 Tera-electron Volts (TeV) to 4 — scientists will get three times more data from tens of millions of daily collisions, CERN said. Physicists believe that without the Higgs boson and its associated “particle field” debris from the Big Bang would never have coalesced to form galaxies, stars and planets.