Everyone's catching Higgs fever, even French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The elusive particle - and the race between the experiments at Fermilab's Tevatron and those at the Large Hadron Collider to discover it - have made headlines for years, but the frenzy reached new heights in the run-up to the International Conference on High Energy Physics. First, rumors that the particle may have been spotted at the Tevatron spread like wildfire in the media. Fermilab quickly moved to quash the rumors, but others kept popping up. And yesterday it was announced that the President of the French Republic Nicolas Sarkozy will officially open the ICHEP conference on Monday, July 26.
On the first day of ICHEP, it became clear that physicists were not immune to a little publicity; the first Higgs session on Thursday afternoon was standing-room only. Physicists packed the session to hear members of the CDF and DZero collaborations present details of the many individual searches for the Higgs boson that are eventually combined into one final result. The Higgs boson is predicted to decay in a number of different ways, thus leaving a number of different patterns in particle detectors. Scientists search for as many of these patterns as they possibly can, to increase their chances of spotting the Higgs. The ultimate goal is to discover the particle; until that happens, scientists combine all the different searches to further limit the territory where the Higgs boson may be found.
Friday afternoon, the CDF and DZero experiments presented their individual combined analyses to another packed room, including data collected as recently as a few months ago. For these results, the experiments separately combine all of their different types of Higgs searches. Although neither experiment has yet found the Higgs, their ability to pin down the particle's likely location is greatly improving as the Tevatron generates more and more collisions. With their accelerator currently scheduled to end its run in 2011, presenters from both experiments are taking advantage of the attention to the Higgs to build support among their colleagues for a three-year extension to the collider's run.
But the main event is still to come: on Monday afternoon, CDF's Ben Kilminster will present the hotly anticipated combined result from both experiments in the first day of plenary ICHEP sessions.
Both the presentation of the Tevatron Higgs result and President Sarkozy's speech will be available via webcast.
Author's note: This article was corrected on July 25 to more accurately represent the status of current predictions regarding the Higgs boson and how it may decay into other particles.