CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is flying again at 99.999999% at the speed of light, after taking off the winter months for regular maintenance. Since ironing out 2009’s launch bugs, the 17-mi particle accelerator has been about as eminently reliable as Toyotas used to be, and recently produced quark-gluon matter, among other exotic stuff not seen since the Big Bang.
But the big fish—the Higgs Boson, lynchpin and one remaining unconfirmed particle of physics’ Standard Model—remains to be snared, despite widespread rumors last summer that Fermilab’s Tevatron had found it. A mere 3.9 miles in circumference, the Tevatron, in Illinois, is slated to be closed this September, putting the full pressure of human cosmology on LHC’s broad shoulders.
At least one of CERN’s scientists is looking toward Plan B. Tom Lecompte, of the Argonne National Laboratory, says if the Higgs isn’t found by the end of 2012, we’ll have to conclude, like so many jilted lovers, that it’s not it, but us.
“The Higgs is one model of many. It’s a model that we like. It’s simple, its elegant, but it’s entirely possible that there is something else beyond the Higgs that does its job instead, and what we may discover is instead of the Higgs itself we may discover something much more interesting. There could be multiple Higgses or there could be something completely different doing the same job as the Higgs in a completely different way.”
For those playing along at home: