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CERN shuts down machine used to explore origins of the universe

CERN closes down the LEP accelerator, suspending the search for the Higgs boson


The European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva has decided to scrap a massive particle accelerator involved in researching the makeup of the universe. It comes despite recent results which physicists said could lead to a breakthrough.

In a statement on Wednesday, the director-general, Luciano Maiani, said the Large Electron-Proton Collider (LEP) had been switched off "for the last time".

The announcement comes less than a week after the LEP was shut down after 11 years of service. The machine had been used to chase an elusive subatomic particle known as the Higgs Boson, which is thought to be at the origins of the universe.

Physicists at CERN had argued against shutting down the machine since finding more evidence of the Higgs Boson. In recent months they had stepped up research after recording what appeared to be shadows of the particle.

However, Maiani said the events recorded were not sufficient proof of a breakthrough.

"The new data was not sufficiently conclusive to justify running LEP in 2001," Maiani said.

The LEP is to be dismantled as part of a planned $1.8 billion, five-year project to build a new, more powerful accelerator. The Large Hadron Collider will be built in a 27-kilometre circular tunnel under the Swiss-French border.

In is not expected to be operational until 2006 at the earliest, giving rivals in the United States plenty of time to try to locate the Higgs Boson themselves.

swissinfo with agencies

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