When looking for a needle in a haystack, what's the best method for finding said needle? One method would be to find where the needle isn't hiding.
That's basically what scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) are currently doing in the search for the elusive Higgs particle, the proverbial needle in the quantum physics haystack.
In a news release issued today, the CMS Collaboration (an LHC detector) has announced its first results and Higgs has not been detected in the data collected through 2010.
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Anticlimax, right? Actually, this is a significant step forward in the epic hunt for the Higgs. The CMS detector has ruled out a Higgs mass range of between 144 and 207 GeV/c2 - a unit of measurement used by accelerator physicists to define the mass of subatomic particles.
"After many years of construction, our detector is ready and the LHC is ready," said U.S. CMS Collaboration Board Chair Nick Hadley. "Now we have finally started our long journey on the search for the Higgs."
For the Standard Model of particle physics to be proven correct, the Higgs boson needs to exist. It is one the the Model's cornerstone particles, a particle that is theorized to give matter its mass.
Therefore, by ruling out mass ranges (which relates to how much energy is needed to collide protons inside the LHC), physicists are able to slowly close the net around this mysterious particle. They are 95 percent certain that the Higgs can't be found in this particular 144-207 GeV/c2 "net."
"The imminent LHC running in 2011 and 2012 should provide enough data for CMS to detect the Standard Model Higgs boson, should it exist," the CMS statement concluded.
But what if the Higgs isn't found? What if this quantum needle isn't found inside the quantum haystack regardless of how much of the haystack is reduced?
If there's no Higgs, there must be "something more exotic, and our theories are wrong," Jon Butterworth, an LHC ATLAS Collaboration physicist, told Discovery News in a 2009 interview. "That would be exciting."
Source: Symmetry Breaking
Image: Particle tracks imaged by the CME experiment during a collision (CMS Collaboration/LHC/CERN)