A leaked internal memo contains unconfirmed reports that one of the detectors at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, had picked up signals that could be the long sought after particle, called the Higgs boson.
One of the main scientific goals of the huge £6 billion atom smasher was to prove the existence of the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle believed to give everything in the universe mass.
The particle is a key part of the standard model used in physics to describe how particles and atoms are made up.
Rumours that scientists working on the LHC had found evidence of the Higgs boson began to circulate after an supposed internal memo was posted on the internet.
But physicists were quick to urge caution over the claims as many candidates for the particle that appear in collision experiments at the LHC are subsequently dismissed on further examination.
Officials at CERN said the result had not yet been properly verified and could turn out to be a false alarm.
The memo revealed that one of the particle detectors at the LHC had caught a particle that could be a Higgs boson decaying into other two high-energy particles known as photons.
The memo, written by four scientists working on the LHC's ATLAS experiment, warned the rate at which this happened was thirty times larger than would have been expected.
But it added: “The present result is the first definitive observation of physics beyond the standard model.
“Exciting new physics, including new particles, may be expected to be found in the very near future.”
Some scientists initially said they believed the memo could have been a hoax, but it was confirmed as genuine by officials at CERN.
James Gillies, official spokesman for CERN, said that while the results note was genuine, it was one of thousands constantly being produced by scientists and that is was still in the very early stages of assessment.
He said: "It is far too early to say if there is anything to it or not. There are 3,000 scientists working on ATLAS and they divide the analysis work up between them.
"This is an internal communication that highlights something interesting, but it has to go through several stages of assessment by the scientific team before it will be released as an official result by the collaborative team.
"The majority of these things turn out to be nothing at all. It is very speculative at this stage, but there is a great deal of excitement and anticipation that something will be found which is probably why this has found its way onto the internet."
Despite the official caution, there was intense speculation on internet blogs and scientific websites that the results described in the memo signalled the first discovery of the Higgs boson.
The rumours come as officials in CERN revealed they had set a new world record by producing the most intense beams of particles ever achieved.
The memo first appeared on the blog of physicist Peter Woit, from Columbia University. He wrote: "It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see if there were a Higgs at that mass, but the number of events seen is about 30 times more than the standard model would predict."
Professor Brian Cox, a particle physicist at Manchester University and presenter of the BBC's Wonders of the Universe, urged caution over the results.
Writing on the social networking site Twitter, he said: "The Higgs rumours are from an internal, unchecked ATLAS document. Very bad science to leak it. Many mistakes are made in un-reviewed papers."
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