Tuesday, February 17, 2009

50/50 at worst, 96% at best

These are the odds that Fermilab will find the Higgs before CERN. At least, according to Fermilab, as quoted today in this article from BBC News. The subhead of the article reads "Europe's particle physics lab, CERN, is losing ground rapidly in the race to discover the elusive Higgs boson, or "God Particle," its US rival claims."

Later in the article comes this line:

"Project leader Lyn Evans conceded the enforced downtime might cost the European lab one of the biggest prizes in physics."

I've mentioned before that Ben Kilminster, wearing his batman T-shirt, half-jokingly said that Fermilab was in a race with CERN but they needed CERN to "trip a little bit. Stumble." Back when CERN had its breakdown, in the fall of 2008, I don't think anyone expected the ramifications to be quite so huge. Remember, some people say that the entire construction of this new version of CERN was done to find the Higgs. Others will point out that there is much more science that will be done than that one discovery, but no one could deny that the Higgs is a main motivator. So when it became apparent that CERN was out of commission for a full year, I suspect the worrying began. This wasn't CERN tripping a little bit; a stumble. This was turning out to be a headlong sprawl.

As Leon Lederman, John Conway, and others said in our film, the Tevatron is now a finely-tuned, thoroughly tested race car, purring along on eight cylinders, with a pit crew of battle-hardened mechanics standing by who know every nut and bolt by heart. If ever there was a moment for it to take the lead and claim the prize, this is it.

The article states something quite stunning:

"Fermilab estimates that the Tevatron has already picked out about eight collision events which may be hints of the Higgs."

Sounds like there's a potential that by summer this could finally be in the bag... stay tuned for further developments...

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