To be or not to be? That is the question, and we’re getting closer to an answer

One subject dominated discussions at the CERN Council meetings this week: anticipation of news about the on-going search for the Higgs boson by the ATLAS and CMS experiments. The LHC has continued to perform impressively in 2012, raising expectations that sufficient data may have been accumulated for a discovery. Before going on, let me say very clearly that on that point, we’ll have to be patient for a little bit longer.


Higgs candidate event, courtesy of CMS.

Nevertheless, with less than two weeks to go until the start of the ICHEP conference, news from the experiments is eagerly anticipated. Refinements of the analysis of the 2011 data, released over the course of recent months, show that the hints reported in December persist. The latest progress, including results from the 2012 data, will be presented at CERN on Wednesday 4 July with a live two-way video link to the scientists gathering in Melbourne for ICHEP.

If and when a new particle is discovered, ATLAS and CMS will need time to tell whether it is the long sought Higgs boson, the last missing ingredient of the Standard Model of particle physics, or whether it is a more exotic form of the boson that could open the door to new physics. It’s a bit like spotting a familiar face from afar: sometimes you need closer inspection to find out whether it’s really your best friend, or actually your best friend’s twin.

In other business, I’m happy to report that Council approved the Organization’s budget for 2013. Council warmly congratulated CERN on the performance of the accelerators, experiments and computing. And Council also received notification from the Russian Federation that it is ready to start the procedure to apply for Associate Membership of CERN.

To conclude, we don’t yet know what will be presented on 4 July. Data taking for ICHEP only concluded on Monday and analysis is in full swing. But with the amount of data we now have, coupled with impressive refinements in analysis techniques and a great performance from the computing Grid, we have a very interesting update to look forward to, and a vintage conference to follow. I’d like to thank the whole CERN community for all their hard work and dedication that have produced this wonderful performance.

Rolf Heuer,  CERN Director General