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Higgs boson sighting re-ignites LEP closure debate

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

(Keystone)

The particle accelerator at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva was closed on Thursday. But scientists are already pressing for it to be reopened after finding more evidence of an elusive subatomic particle.

The Large Electron Positron (LEP) was closed after the expiry of a one-month stay of execution granted in September after researchers detected what they hoped was evidence of the particle believed to be responsible for all the mass in the Universe, the Higgs Boson.

But further sightings of the particle's shadow over the past month are now leading CERN to reconsider whether to close the LEP and press ahead with building its successor.

The management must decide whether it is worth pushing the ageing technology a little longer in the hope of making the discovery before their rivals in the United States.

"Anything can happen," said Neil Calder, spokesman for CERN.

In the last few months, the scientists have stepped up their research using the LEP after three of the four colliders recorded what appeared to be shadows of the Higgs Boson.

The long-sought particle was named after the British physicist, Peter Higgs, who postulated its existence more than 30 years ago to explain how atoms, and everything else in the Universe, have weight.

The 27 kilometre-long LEP accelerator has been operational for 11 years and was shut down on Thursday so that work can begin on a new machine, the Large Hadron Collider.

However, it will take at least five years to build, and many of the scientists in Geneva fear that the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago would have a good chance of finding the Higgs Boson in the meantime.

swissinfo with agencies


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