The search for the 'God particle' could be nearing a resolution as physicists prepare to announce the latest evidence from the Large Hadron Collider.
At a special meeting at the Cern laboratory near Geneva in Switzerland, scientists from the two main experiments targeting the Higgs boson will disclose their latest findings.
While researchers from the ATLAS and CMS teams regularly present batches of their most recent data, there is particular excitement surrounding the seminar on December 13.
Although scientists are unlikely to announce conclusive evidence of whether or not the particle exists, their data could be strong enough to make a confident guess one way or the other.
There is added excitement within the scientific community because the two teams, both of which include British experts, will not be comparing their results beforehand to avoid biasing their interpretation of their own data.
This means even the researchers involved will not know until the seminar what their findings mean in the context of the results from the other group.
The Higgs boson is a theoretical particle which scientists believe gives mass to everything in the universe, and is a key component of the Standard Model of physics.
While finding it in its expected form would confirm common theories on how atoms are put together, identifying a number of Higgs bosons with different masses or disproving the particle entirely would overturn many assumptions of modern physics.
Dr Alan Barr, of Oxford University, the Physics Coordinator for the ATLAS UK collaboration, said the meeting was likely to produce an intermediate result rather than conclusive evidence, but added that there "could be some surprises."
The sheer amount of data the researchers have to wade through means it is highly unlikely they will be able to announce a definitive result at the seminar, but if the data from the two teams match it could provide the strongest hint yet of the existence – or non-existence – of the so-called "God particle."
Dr Barr said: "It is anticipated there may be some interest in this because we collected five times more data this year than we anticipated. This is enough to give pointers of what is happening – whether there is a Higgs boson, there is no Higgs boson, or there is something completely different, and even more interesting.
"Physicists require one in a million odds [of an error in their result] to claim a discovery. Gaining that degree of confidence is likely to need careful analysis well into next year."