London: Scientists say they may be able to prove by the end of the year that the elusive Higgs Boson, or the particle that is responsible for giving mass to the universe, really exists.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world`s largest and highest-energy particle accelerator, will be switched off at the end of this year for some major upgrades, but Rolf-Dieter Heuer, director of European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), said he was very confident that by that time it will be possible to say whether the Higgs Boson exists.
The theoretical particle, nicknamed the God Particle due to its central role it has in explaining modern physics, has never been detected and scientists have been working for decades to prove its existence.
Scientists hope that high energy collisions of particles in the 17-mile underground tunnel at CERN will finally allow them to create the conditions to allow them to spot the elusive Higgs Boson.
Dr Heuer said the LHC is scheduled to be closed down for up to two years to carry out upgrades that will increase its power and allow it to continue with more experiments.
"We will know by the end of this year whether it exists or whether it is non-existent. This would be a huge discovery that after 50 years we are able to describe the visible universe," he was quoted as saying by a newspaper.
"We will have taken a big step forward about our knowledge of the physical world. It will help us to understand the creation of the universe," he added.
Dr Heuer also informed that for the first time the LHC will be opened to the public, who will be allowed to walk through the underground tunnel that straddles the French-Swiss border.
CERN require a high level of proof and will only announce that the Higgs Boson exists when there is just a one in three million chance they are wrong.
Dr Heuer said the discovery of the Higgs Boson will also help investigations into this wider universe. The visible universe only makes up five per cent and the rest is "dark energy" and "dark matter".
He said it was impossible to imagine at this stage how the knowledge of the particle could be applied to practical applications but pointed to previous discoveries have led to developments in medicine and the internet.
"Whatever basic science resolves, at some stage it is of use to society. The problem is we do not know when or where."
The search for the God Particle has proved controversial. Critics feared the LHC could create a massive black hole that would "swallow the Earth".
Religious groups have also questioned the search for a particle at the origins of the universe.
Dr Heuer admitted that "micro black holes" may be created in the LHC but he insisted this was safe as they would decay almost immediately and it could even be good for science as it shows that micro black holes are occurring all the time.