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Higgs boson 'glimpsed' but evidence not conclusive

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Scientists at the LHC are expected to announce that the Higgs boson has been observed but a confirmation of discovery will have to wait until 2012.

LHC tunnel
LHC tunnel

On Tuesday, teams working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland are expected to present evidence that the Higgs boson particle has been glimpsed. However, the evidence will not be conclusive according to an email sent to staff by Rolf-Dieter Heuer, CERN's director-general. University of Manchester professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold, calls the quality of LHC's results "exceptional" but cautions that we'll likely have to wait less than a year to find out if the Higgs particle has been discovered.

Two teams — Atlas and CMS — are sifting through billions of collisions looking for evidence of Higgs boson. Recent rumors claim that they have seen indications of a Higgs spike at 125 GeV within a 2.5 to 3.5 sigma level of certainty (where three sigma is an "observation" and five sigma is a discovery). Nevertheless, if the two teams at LHC announce a spike at the about the same place then physicists would be confident that they're close, but obligated to wait until they've reached a five sigma conclusion before announcing the discovery of Higgs boson.

The Higgs particle is a fundamental building block of the universe and helps explain why other particles have mass. Proof that the Higgs boson, or "god particle," exists would validate physicists' approach to understanding the universe and help justify the $10 billion spent constructing the 17-mile particle accelerator that tunnels beneath the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva.

Update: The official findings do indeed suggest the existence of the Higgs boson in the range of 116-130 GeV, as observed by the ATLAS experiment, and 115-127 GeV as seen by CMS, with "an intriguing excess of events in the mass range around 125 GeV." Both teams expect to have conclusive evidence in 2012.