In DepthParticle Physics

Particle no-show at LHC prompts anxiety

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Science  12 Aug 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6300, pp. 635-636
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6300.635

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When physicists working with the world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), announced last week that much ballyhooed hints of an exotic new particle turned out to be mere statistical fluctuations in the data, many shrugged off the disappointment. Spurious spikes in the data inevitably show up, physicists say, and it's too soon to give up hope for something new and exciting from the LHC, the 27-kilometer-long collider at the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. Yet beneath that equanimity runs a deeper current of anxiety. The LHC, which started taking data in 2010 but reached high energies only last year, is generating data at an accelerating pace. But since revealing the previously predicted Higgs boson in 2012, the LHC has failed to unearth a single new particle, and a lack of surprises in the first big batch of high energy data has some physicists concerned. If the LHC doesn't find anything new in the next couple years, physicists' emphasis would most likely shift from dramatic searches for new, massive particles to more painstaking precision measurements of known particles, which can hint at particles too massive for the LHC to produce directly. That shift could lead to attrition at the LHC.

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