The runup to Christmas looks exciting for the Large Hadron Collider at Cern near Geneva. Staff at the laboratory have arranged a special seminar on Tuesday 13 December at which the latest results in the search for the Higgs boson will be made public. The presentation is due to happen directly after the lab’s scientific policy committee has convened one of its regular meetings behind closed doors.
So what can we expect to hear? The two main groups that hunt the Higgs boson, the Atlas and CMS detector collaborations, will describe their results separately, unlike the recent combined figures put out this month in Paris. There has been too little time to merge the most up-to-date results from both experiments.
If both teams have analysed all their data, up to the last proton-proton collision recorded in October this year, we are into interesting territory. John Ellis, a theoretical physicist at King’s College London, who in 1976 wrote the first paper on how to find the Higgs boson, says that if the particle exists in the simple form invoked by the Standard Model (the set of equations that describe how known particles interact) it should start to show up in their data, but probably not strongly enough for them to claim a discovery. If the elusive boson is a mirage, the scientists should be able to rule it out completely. All of this is contingent on their having analysed every last bit of their data, though, and that is unlikely.