* Alpine physics conference could host announcement
* Researchers play down speculation of 'twin' particles
* Discovery claim could bring Nobel prize
GENEVA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Scientists at Europe's CERN
research centre said on Wednesday they may be able to
definitively announce at a conference next March that they had
discovered the elusive Higgs boson.
But they dismissed suggestions circulating widely on blogs
and even in some science journals that instead of just one type
of the elementary particle they might have found a pair.
CERN researchers said in July they had found what appeared
to be the particle that gives mass to matter, as imagined and
named half a century ago by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs.
But they stopped short of saying for sure it was the Higgs
boson, pending further research.
"The latest data we have on this thing we have been watching
for the past few months show that it is not simply 'like a
Higgs' but is very like a Higgs," said Oliver Buechmuller of the
CMS team at CERN's Large Hadron Collider.
"The way things are going, by the Moriond meeting we may be
able to stop calling it Higgs-like and finally say it is the
Higgs," he told Reuters, referring to the annual gathering which
will take place at the Italian Alpine resort of La Thuile, 120
kms (75 miles) from CERN, on March 2-9.
Suggestions that there may be two Higgs, a particle that
made formation of the universe possible after the Big Bang 13.7
billion years ago, emerged after a progress report by CERN
scientists last week. Its definitive discovery that would almost
certainly win a Nobel Prize.
Commentators, including one in the journal Scientific
American, said differing measurements - so far unexplained - of
the new boson's mass that were recorded by ATLAS - a parallel
but separate research team to CMS at CERN, indicated there might
be twin particles.
"That is quite an exaggeration," said Pauline Gagnon, a
scientist with ATLAS. "The facts are so much simpler: we measure
one quantity in two different ways and obtain two slightly
"However, when we combine all the information, we clearly
get only one value. Since we have checked all other
possibilities, it really looks like a statistical fluctuation.
Such things happen."
Buechmueller, whose CMS team found no such variation in
their measurements, said he agreed there was no special
relevance in the ATLAS discrepancy. "It will probably disappear
when more data is in and analysed," he added.
The $10-billion Large Hadron Collider, a 27-km (17-mile)
circular construct deep under the Franco-Swiss border, will shut
down for some two years in February to allow a doubling of its
power and its capacity to probe cosmic mysteries
(Reported by Robert Evans; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)