Even as its death knell sounds, the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab is producing data that may help answer the current big question in particle physics.
Fermilab announced Wednesday that experiments using the Tevatron have narrowed the range of mass in which the Higgs boson particle, aka the "God particle," is postulated to exist. Their results seem to confirm those obtained from experiments conducted at the Large Hadron Collider, a much more powerful instrument in Europe.
Scientists from the CDF and DZero collider experiments at Fermilab have been presenting their findings at the EPS High-Energy Physics conference in France this week. The experiments rely on 700 billion proton-antiproton collisions from the Tevatron accelerator, done since 2001.
Scientists believe that a Higgs boson would give particles mass. Without mass, gravity could not work on the particles, meaning they would fly apart. It is theorized that, on the scale of the four fundamental forces that rule the universe, its mass falls between the massless photon, which generates electromagnetism, and the weak nuclear force.
The laboratory has produced a "What is the Higgs boson" video and posted it on YouTube to explain its work.
The Tevatron is due to shut down Sept. 30 after a run of 28 years. Until the LHC started in 2008, the Tevatron was the world's most-powerful accelerator.
In other Fermilab news this week, it announced a U.S. partnership with India to support Fermilab's Project X experiment. It provides a legal framework to expand current collaborations and launch new projects in high-energy physics and nuclear physics. It specifically aims to expand research in superconducting radio-frequency accelerator technology, heavy ion physics, and particle detector development at Fermilab, Jefferson National Accelerator Laboratory in Virginia and Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, New York.