Cern may extend Big Bang research
Geneva - New data on the origins of the universe is pouring in so quickly that physicists may extend the current opening phase of their Big Bang project to the end of 2012, directors of the CERN research centre said.
An extension, to be decided in late January, could lead to an early discovery of the elusive Higgs boson believed to have turned an amorphous mass of particles into solid matter at the birth of the cosmos.
"There is a big window for new discoveries opening up and we want to ensure the momentum of these past few months is maintained," said Cern director general Rolf Heuer, who overseas the centre's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments.
"We have confirmed this year all that we thought we knew about the physical universe, and now we are moving into new territory," his deputy, research director Sergio Bertolucci, added. "We are looking towards the known unknowns and also things we may not even have thought about."
Heuer and Bertolucci spoke as Cern engineers began to close down the giant, subterranean LHC and its huge detector magnets - which smash particles together at all but the speed of light and make up the world's biggest scientific project - until next February for winter fine-tuning.