Rival Labs Fight Like Hell to Find 'God Particle'

US may catch elusive particle first while Europe does repairs
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2009 10:24 AM CST
Part of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland. While European scientists repair the hadron collider, American researchers have made progress in the search for the Higgs boson.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, File)
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(Newser) – The US-based Fermilab is gaining ground on Europe's CERN in the race to discover the Higgs boson, the elusive prize of particle physics, reports the BBC. While the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland remains out of order, Fermilab's facility in Chicago has been cranked up. At a recent conference, the director of the American facility predicted it could find the Higgs boson—sometimes called the "God particle"—in the next two years.

The Higgs boson is critical to the so-called "standard model" of particle physics, and helps to explain why matter in the universe has mass. Fermilab researchers are planning to work through coming vacation; as one scientist said, "Whoever is first is first." One of their European colleagues acknowledged that the American apparatus is working well, but noted, "In one year, we will be competitive. After that, we will swamp them."