(A technician walks under the core magnet of part of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva where scientists are searching for the Higgs boson/Denis Balibouse)

Scientists chasing a particle they believe may have played a vital role in creation of the universe have indicated they were coming to accept it might not exist after all. But they stressed that if the so-called Higgs boson turns out to have been a mirage, the way would be open for advances into territory dubbed “new physics” to try to answer one of the great mysteries of the cosmos.

The CERN research centre, whose giant Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been the focus of the search, said on Monday it had reported to a conference in Mumbai that possible signs of the Higgs noted last month were now seen as less significant. A number of scientists from the centre went on to make comments that raised the possibility that the mystery particle might not exist.

The Higgs boson is posited to be the agent that gave mass and energy to matter just after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. It has been dubbed the “God particle” because understanding how mass was created would amount to understanding “the mind of God,” as Albert Einstein put it.

“Whatever the final verdict on Higgs, we are now living in very exciting times for all involved in the quest for new physics,” Guido Tonelli, from one of the two LHC detectors chasing the Higgs, said as the new observations were announced.