Race for 'God particle' heats up
By James Morgan
Science reporter, BBC News, Chicago
Europe's particle physics lab, Cern, is losing ground rapidly in the race to discover the elusive Higgs boson, or "God particle", its US rival claims.
The particle, whose existence has been predicted by theoreticians, would help to explain why matter has mass.
Finding the Higgs is a major goal of Cern's Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
But the US Fermilab says the odds of its Tevatron accelerator detecting the famed particle first are now 50-50 at worst, and up to 96% at best.
Both machines hope to see evidence of the Higgs by colliding sub-atomic matter at very high speeds. If it exists, the Higgs should emerge from the debris.
The LHC has been out of action since last September when an accident damaged some of the magnets that make up its giant colliding ring.
Project leader Lyn Evans conceded the enforced downtime might cost the European lab one of the biggest prizes in physics.
Cern and Fermilab officials squared up at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago.