In Search for Higgs Boson, Physicists Report a Definite Maybe

Like all good rumors, whispers that the long-sought Higgs boson has been spotted turn out to be half-true. This week, two teams of physicists working with the world's biggest atom smasherthe Large Hadron Collider (LHC) here at the European particle physics laboratory, CERNreported the latest results in their search for the Higgs, the fundamental particle that is key to physicists' explanation of how all particles get their mass. Just as the rumors suggested, both teams report tantalizing signs that the Higgs is there and that it has a mass about 133 times that of the proton. But one team sees additional oddities, so the results haven't bowled everyone over.

The good news is that the two groups see consistent signals at roughly the same energy, reinforcing each other's results. They also see those signs via different "decay channels," the combinations of detectable particles that result when the Higgs falls apart. However, one team's data plots also show peaks and wiggles at other masses. In effect, that team sees too many signs of possible Higgses, at various masses, and that has some physicists worrying that even the cluster of hints that coincide may be a mirage created by statistical fluctuations.
"In my heart of hearts I desperately want the Higgs to be there," says Rob Roser of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. "And yet I'm not even willing to bet your house on [the possible sighting] after seeing the data." John Ellis, a theorist at King's College London, is also circumspect: "I'd hold off a bit" on suggesting the Higgs has been seen.
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