GENEVA — Creation is at the center of religion, and it is also at the center of a search, not for God, but for the "God particle."
In April rumors began that the $10-billion Large Hadron Collider near Geneva had found what it was built, in part, to find: the elusive Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God particle." It would have been a huge scientific breakthrough, but it looks now that the God particle may not exist after all.
"The Higgs really is the Holy Grail of particle physics and that's why this is so important," Phillip F. Schewe, a spokesman for the American Institute of Physics, told Associated Press back in April.
The particle is the missing puzzle piece in the Standard Theory of particle physics. It would help explain why matter has mass. "It has been dubbed the 'God particle,'" AFP reported, "because it is thought to be everywhere, but it has also proved agonizingly hard to find."
Allen J. Epling, a blogger at the Christian Post, explained how important the particle is to scientists: "Scientists believe that the Higgs particle is necessary for everything in the universe to exist. Without it the universe would never have come into existence. Without it the planets would not orbit the sun. Without it time would be meaningless and there would be no purpose or meaning to anything in the universe. Scientists have long accepted the existence of the Higgs (God) particle as being present in everything around us but cannot yet prove that it exists physically. The way matter behaves and interacts is proof enough of its existence. They accept its existence based on 'faith' that it exists."
When the LHC atom smasher first fired up in March 2010, Physicist Michio Kaku told The Associated Press, "This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 — what happened in the beginning. ... This is a Genesis machine. It'll help to recreate the most glorious event in the history of the universe."
Reuters reported that the collider has been creating "billions of miniature versions of the Big Bang." But so far, there has been no sign of the God particle that would have explained how mass and energy were connected to matter in the original Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.
Kaku explained the importance of the God particle this way in a radio interview, "If we don't find the Higgs boson we are in deep trouble. We are in deep doo-doo. The reason is that the subatomic particles in the Standard Model are the basis, the foundation of everything we know about the Big Bang, everything we know about the universe, cosmic rays (and) black holes. So if that theory is wrong, then we are really in trouble. It means we have to throw out what is called the Standard Model — and even string theory would be in danger because string theory also has a Higgs boson. Steve Hawking, my colleague, said, "Well, if we don't find the Higgs boson things would be very interesting.' No. It will be a disaster if we don't find Higgs boson, because basically the entire edifice of modern physics depends upon it."
Scientific American said Hawking, a British physicist, had placed a bet a few years ago that the collidor would never find the Higgs boson. He was, Scientific American said, "betting against the entire world of physics, as it were."
On August 22, CERN scientists announced that, in the energy ranges they have searched (145 to 466 billion electron volts) "the Higgs boson is excluded as a possibility with a 95 percent probability," Scientific American reported.
"If undetected," LiveMint.com said, "scientists would have to come up with new mechanisms to explain how particles acquire mass, which in turn could throw up fresh insight into the workings of the universe."
But although the results are not positive, some are still holding to their faith in the God particle's existence. "It's never too early to think about it, but it is too early to worry," Nobel Prize-winner Frank Wilczek of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told New Scientist.
"The probability of nonexistence is not overwhelming — there is still a 5 percent chance that the Higgs is hiding somewhere within this energy range," Amir Aczel wrote in Scientific American. "But the Higgs is quickly running out of places to hide."
Sergio Bertolucci, the research director at CERN, which runs the Large Hadron Collider, told http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14596367 the BBC, "Discoveries are almost assured within the next 12 months. If the Higgs exists, the LHC experiments will soon find it. If it does not, its absence will point the way to new physics."
"Whatever the final verdict on Higgs, we are now living in very exciting times for all involved in the quest for new physics," CERN spokesman Guido Tonelli said.
The search has up to now, according to the BBC, focused on the areas of mass where it would be easiest to find the Higgs boson. Over the next few months, scientists will continue to use the collider to search through the last few regions for the God particle. For now, it is a game of seek and ye shall find, or not find.
Additional information: CERN has created a way for volunteers to contribute "spare processing capacity" on their computers to help with the LHC experiments at lhcathome.web.cern.ch lhcathome.cern.ch.
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