‘God’ Particle Victim of Identity Theft

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It’s not just Sony that’s worried about identity swindlers—it looks like celestial specks of elemental matter have to worry about scammers, too.

Poor Higgs boson, the hypothetical “god particle” we’ve never met, and to make matters worse in our scramble to pin it down, it seems we’re not just waiting for Godot, but having to fend off Godot’s impostors in the bargain.

What’s a Higgs boson? Glad you asked, because I had to look it up myself: an incredibly small particle with zero spin that gives other particles mass. Say huh? Don’t worry about that stuff (or do). Suffice to say its existence (or nonexistence) weighs heavy in the battle to resolve inconsistent fundamentals of theoretical physics. We need to find it to validate critical ideas about how time-space’s building blocks work.

To do so, scientists have been smashing protons in supercolliders (like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN) in an effort to produce the elusive Higgs boson (not to be confused with micro black holes).

Their job just got harder. A new study says other undiscovered particles may mimic the Higgs boson, and here’s the kicker: cost scientists years to prove they aren’t. It seems these other hypothetical particles may co-opt aspects of a Higgs boson in the process of mixing with one. Sounds a little Invasion of the Body Snatchers, no?

There’s an upside: if we found impostor particles that mimicked Higgs boson, their discovery alone would partially validate the former’s existence. But the timetable for getting to the heart of the matter—the Higgs particle itself—just got longer, and as anyone knows (especially the poor souls at Sony Corp), lengthy, indefinite timetables equal giant frowny faces.

(via New Scientist)