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Why do objects have mass? The elusive Higgs boson could hold the key.

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Collisions between protons smashed in the collider produce energy that in turn creates other particles. On rare occasions, this energy could produce the Higgs particle — if it exists.

Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian physicist who heads the team running the ATLAS experiment, said "the hottest region" is in lower mass ranges of the collider. She said there are indications of the Higgs' existence and that with enough data it could be unambiguously discovered or ruled out next year.

The results rule out several mass or energy ranges for the Higgs with a high degree of confidence, Gianotti said.

"The most important result is that we have been able to restrict the most likely mass region to a very narrow range," she said.

Afterward, Guido Tonelli, lead physicist for the team running the separate CMS experiment, outlined findings similar to those of the ATLAS team, saying the particle is most likely found "in the low mass region" among the spectrum of possible Higgs masses.

CERN's director-general, Rolf Heuer, said "the window for the Higgs mass gets smaller and smaller."

"But be careful — it's intriguing hints," he said. "We have not found it yet, we have not excluded it yet."

Determining what mass the Higgs has helps focus scientists' search for other new physics. For example, a Higgs with a mass around the range of 124 to 126 billion electron volts is "not so bad for supersymmetry," said Heuer, referring to another theory that predicts a partner particle for each one that has already been identified.

The collaborations for the ATLAS and CMS experiments each involve about 3,000 scientists and engineers. They are leading the search for the Higgs, but there are also are several other experiments at CERN looking into other mysteries of the universe.

"We need to get a lot more collisions next year to get a definitive answer to the Shakespearean question, 'To be or not to be,' " Heuer said of the Higgs. "Both experiments have shown that next year very likely we will get an answer that is very solid."

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