Finding 'God Particle' Requires Faith... and Your Computer

  on August 12 2011 9:13 AM

Scientists have moved closer to finding the elusive Higgs Boson sub-atomic particle -- dubbed the 'God particle' -- but now anyone a computer and an Internet connection can help.

The Large Hadron Collider team will be tapping into the collective computing power of the public to help it process the massive calculations necessary to simulate the particle physics experiments.

"Volunteers can now actively help physicists in the search for new fundamental particles that will provide insights into the origin of our Universe, by contributing spare computing power from their personal computers and laptops," read a statement from Cern, the European Organization for Nuclear Research which runs the LHC.

Dubbed LHC@Home, the program uses a similar concept as SETI@Home which also relied on public computing to help aid its search for extraterrestrial life, and complex protein folding problems of the past.

The LHC@home project will split up the computations among the cutting-edge facilities at LHC, and on standard computers through out the world. After the calculations are run, the results are fed back to researchers for comparison and analysis.

"By looking for discrepancies between the simulations and the data, we are searching for any sign of disagreement between the current theories and the physical Universe," says the LHC@home 2.0 website.

"Ultimately, such a disagreement could lead us to the discovery of new phenomena, which may be associated with new fundamental principles of nature."

Getting Closer

In July researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) fired streams of protons through the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator, and found something unusual.

The anomalies could be the first signs of the particle, researchers said.

"We know everything about the Higgs boson except whether it exists," said CERN director Rolf Heuer. "We can settle this Shakespearean question -- to be or not to be -- by the end of next year."

At the same time, researchers have been analyzing data from the U.S Department of Energy's Fermilab near Chicago, turning up their own indications of the particle.

"The search for the Higgs boson is entering its most exciting, final stage," Stefan Soldner-Rembold, spokesman for Fermilabs said .

If scientists find the Higgs boson, it would add further evidence of the validity to the Standard Model, which has been a cornerstone of particle physics for decades.

The standard model says that the Higgs boson is the reason that some particles -- and the atoms of which they are made -- have any mass at all, and why photons do not.

Without the 'God particle', however, that whole edifice falls apart because the Standard Model would then fail to answer why particles have mass.

"If you find the Boson Higgs, the Standard Model is complete. If you don't find it, then the Model has a serious problem. Both outcomes are discoveries," Heuer explained.

No experiment has directly observed the Higgs boson yet.

 

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