Among these elusive little fellas is something called the Higgs boson. The Higgs boson is thought to be the particle that creates the Higgs effect (what else), a possible reason that other particles have mass. British physicist Peter Higgs (aha!) suggested in the 1960s that matter exists in kind of a lattice network that affects how much mass it has. Actual changes in mass are, for want of a better word, a little weird. A satellite on the launchpad will weigh much more than that same satellite in orbit around the Earth because of its distance from the planet. But its mass remains the same. To change the satellite mass, for example, we could start knocking off pieces of it, but it's very unlikely that the mass will change while it just sits there. It's also unlikely we could change the mass very much before security guards showed up and arrested us for vandalism. Or arrested you, anyway, as I would claim that I didn't want to break the satellite but you plied me with strong spirits until I lost my ability to reason.
Higgs bosons are the particles that would create the Higgs effect and thus affect the mass of other particles, and finding them would help scientists nail down some important information about gravity. That would allow them to complete something called the Standard Model, or an explanation of how the different forces in the universe operate. The Standard Model already does a pretty good job of explaining how the strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force and electromagnetism work, but gravity has stumped scientists so far.
Anyway, that's why scientists are looking for the Higgs boson and why they build huge machines that smash particles into each other at nearly the speed of light, in order to create the extreme conditions under which it and other particles like it can be detected if they are real. At the Tevatron accelerator near Batavia, Illinois, an experiment concerning the Higgs boson showed an unexpected bump in the data that may be an entirely new particle, previously unsuspected. The data is all very preliminary, and the bump could be something ordinary, like a glitch in the readings someplace. Nevertheless, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland are going to run similar experiments to see if they get some of the same results.
Should the particle exist, it may turn out that scientists didn't exactly know the things they thought they knew. Scientists, of course, are used to that sort of thing. Blowhards who make grand pronouncements based on incomplete or even outdated understandings of science, on the other hand, may have a harder time of it.
If the particle does exist, it would be a fine end for the Tevatron facility, which is expected to close down operations in September. Negotiations for a corporate sponsorship, unfortunately, fell through.