In what will probably not be the last rumor to dog the Large Hadron Collider now that it is fully operational, a leaked memo is spreading word that the Higgs particle, proposed to explain why others have the masses they do, might have been seen by the ATLAS collaboration, at Europe’s particle physics lab, CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. In response, ATLAS’ spokeswoman Fabiola Gianotti stops short of disowning the leaked document, but tells Nature signals of the kind reported in the memo show up quite frequently in the course of data analysis and are later falsified after more detailed scrutiny. “Only official ATLAS results, i.e. results that have undergone all the necessary scientific checks by the Collaboration, should be taken seriously,” she says.
The memo, posted by an anonymous commenter on mathematician Peter Woit’s blog, is authored by four ATLAS members who say they have discovered an excess number of photons produced at an energy of 115 GeV that could be caused by the decay of the Higgs particle into photons. The level of the excess is 30 times that expected for a standard model Higgs, so even if this is the particle, it appears to be quite an extraordinary result. “This large enhancement over the standard model rate implies that the present result is the first definitive observation of physics beyond the standard model. Exciting new physics, including new particles, may be expected to be found in the very near future,” the memo says.
Image: ATLAS / CERN