Of Particular Significance

About the NY Times article from 8/02/11

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 08/04/2011

On Tuesday, the New York Times had an article on the Higgs particle search.  Not bad, and does quote relevant people, but just a little bit thin on content.  If you want some actual content, try my article on the hints of the Higgs particle.

Also, the article falls into the common mistake of not distinguishing “The Higgs particle” from “The Standard Model Higgs particle.”   One paragraph says

The Higgs boson is the keystone and last undiscovered piece of the so-called Standard Model, a suite of equations that agrees with all the experiments physicists have been able to do so far in the laboratory.  If the Higgs boson does not exist, theorists will have to go back to their blackboards.

If you conflate the general with the specific, you will at some point down the line end up very confused about what the LHC is trying to do and what its results do and don’t mean.  It would be good for the public if the NY Times reporter would read the Higgs FAQ before phrasing a statement like this.  A more correct statement is:

The Standard Model Higgs boson is the keystone and last undiscovered piece of the so-called Standard Model, a suite of equations that agrees with all the experiments physicists have been able to do so far in the laboratory. If the Standard Model Higgs boson does not exist, this will be very exciting for particle physicists, as it will imply (as has been known for decades) that there must be other particles — perhaps multiple Higgs bosons, and/or perhaps other types of particles — that physicists have not yet discovered, but should be able to discover with the LHC.

The spin is pretty different.

And then there’s the generic paragraph about supersymmetry — more or less right, but again with some big missing points.  Well, stay tuned at this website for an article or two on supersymmetry, and what we have and haven’t learned about it from the LHC so far.

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A decay of a Higgs boson, as reconstructed by the CMS experiment at the LHC

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