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

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Both of the research teams work at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva. CERN runs the $10-billion Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border, a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel where high energy beams of protons are sent crashing into each other at incredible speeds.

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."

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