Particle physicists say they are testing a new theoretical model that proposes that the Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle" underlying the Standard Model of physics, might disintegrate into particles of dark matter.
The new model, proposed by Christopher Petersson at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, would fill in some holes in the standard theory, which was established in the 1970s and proved to be successful in predicting undiscovered particles.
With the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2011 at the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, the Standard Model was considered completed.
However, it has one glaring deficiency, physicists acknowledge: it does not explain dark matter thought to make up a large portion of the mass of the universe.
That led Petersson and research colleagues to propose a new particle model, using a theoretical construct dubbed supersymmetry as its basis.
Petersson's model posits additional elementary particles not found in the Standard Model -- most particularly, particles of dark matter.
It suggests the Higgs particle itself may be a source for them, by disintegrating into one particle of light -- a photon -- and a particle of dark matter.
It may not remain just a theory for long; two teams running experiments with CERN's Large Hadron Collider are beginning the search for evidence of Petersson's predicted qualities of the Higgs particle.
"It's a dream for a theorist in particle physics," Petersson says. "LHC is the only place where the model can be tested. It's even nicer that two independent experiments are going to do it."
Those two experimental teams, Atlas and CMS, both worked on the original Higgs discovery.
Researchers are preparing to begin new experiments since the amount of data gathered in studies so far has been insufficient to either reject or confirm Petersson's model.
"But we are already in full swing with new analyses in which we are testing his model in other ways and with more data," says CMS researcher Zeynap Demiragli. "We congratulate Christoffer Petersson for having done an important job."
After being shut down since 2013 for equipment upgrades to boost its energy capability, the LHC is being prepared to switch on again in the coming months, and those higher energies should generate sufficient data for a proper evaluation of Petersson's model, something he says he eagerly awaits.
"If the model is found to fit, it would completely change our understanding of the fundamental building blocks of nature," he says. "If not, just the fact that they are willing to test my model at CERN is great."