Of Particular Significance

All Higgs All the Time(s)

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 03/05/2013

As many of you will have already noticed, today’s Science Times section of the New York Times newspaper is devoted to articles by Dennis Overbye on the search for the Higgs particle.  At first read, the articles seem pretty good; several key players are interviewed (though inevitably, given page constraints, a number of important players in the experiments are not mentioned) and the science seems mostly accurate, with a few small errors, omissions, or misleading ways of saying things in the glossary and elsewhere.  I’m busy preparing a new public talk for tomorrow, so I’ll have to reserve any detailed comments for later in the week.

But one thing you will notice, if you read the long article which describes the ins and outs of the search process, is that several of the responsible scientists quoted indicate, directly or indirectly, that the December 2011 data did not convince them that a Higgs particle had yet been found.  That was the position I took on this blog, and I reported to you that most responsible scientists I had spoken to (which didn’t happen to include any of the ones quoted in the Science Times today) viewed the December data as inconclusive — meaning that it was still quite possible that the apparent signal of a Higgs particle might evaporate.  Almost every other major particle physics blogger disagreed with me, both on my opinion and on my characterization of others’ opinions.  But I stand by my statements: that though the data reported in July 2012 was essentially definitive, the data in December 2011 was, not only from my perspective but from that of many serious scientists, suggestive yet inconclusive.  And you can now read that in the New York Times.

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11 Responses

  1. At the absence of tribal societies and religion, Europe restored to Experiments and rule of law- present grammars of physics. Einstein not formulated relativity – he only connected relativity to speed of light, because without visible light human consciousness have no meaning, context experiments.
    Without speed of light we lose our balance of symmetry(3D) in our piece of universe. For proofs beyond that, we must go to different parts of universe.
    Any simple knowledge of Hinduism and Buddhism, says little more than visible light and near to feeling “ripple” – Taoism make it more intelligence but remain as feeling “The nature” – “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.” But these consciousness(ultimate truth) not lead to “The science” – only to diffrent symmetry without “ripple” or simple harmonic oscillator – we can never understand the “disturbance(mass, matter) in that oscillator ? Only experiments could illuminate that ?

  2. As someone who was on the other side of that disagreement at the time, if I recall correctly, I think it was largely based on different uses of theoretical priors. I interpreted your stance at the time to be representative of the (healthy) perspective of an experimental scientist, who doesn’t want to skew the interpretation of data with theoretical inferences beyond the absolutely necessary ones. Since I’m not affiliated with any experiments, I think its fine for me to use more of those theoretical inferences when communicating the situation to a less-expert audience, particularly as long as I’m clear that this is what Im doing. In this case that meant inferring that the Higgs discovery was more of a sure thing. But for someone involved with an experiment I agree it makes sense to keep theoretical inferences as circumscribed as possible. In practice, everybody involved should analyze the situation from both perspectives, at one level or another.

  3. The horse is still dead.

    December v. July is tempest in a teapot stuff whose resolution doesn’t matter one way or the other to anything of any consequence, even handing out the credit since the who is what matters for that, not the when, and the “who” is the same at either date.

    1. Twenty years before I married, my wife was still an angel in her way to Earth, but of course, she was already destined to be my wife. This “horse is still dead” saying is simply nonsense. Yet, there is something worse than this dead horse. The new physics now is to combine the contradictory data to claim the positive identification of the Higgs boson, after all 0 + 2 = 1 in statistics combination.

  4. One thing that brought my attention and interests towards science when I was little were stories about hardships of scientists in past times – how they were often wrong and how they fought to find and correct their errors. Stories about people going through numerous dead ends to find the treasure in the end.
    I mean, it’s ok by me for science to be wrong time to time. People should get used to the fact that scientists are only humans and they could be wrong or unsure about something. I find the uncertainity much more exciting. Moreover, people already forgot how to work with uncertainity because of science giving “certainity beyond all doubts” or no results at all way too often.
    World is getting categorical. Either it is a new particle or there is no particle. Either there will be an earthquake, or there will be no earthquake. Either it is radioactive (run!) or it is not radioactive (safe).
    Expert teams withholding their results because they are not sure about them are not exciting. They are boring. And they just add up to the trend and help the world to become even more categorical.

  5. Conservation of energy, binding energy, interaction energy: /The difference in proton and neutron mass-energies is similar to the mass-energy of the electron.
    A deuteron cannot decay into a neutron plus a proton; there would be no way for energy to be conserved.
    Negative interaction energy among particles, combined with the conservation of energy, can change the game in a big way, making impossible certain processes that are normally possible — and vice versa./

    Professor, from my long thinking to understand from Asian perspective, the meaning of European Enlightenment. From above line, I had clue – it is really “the science”- Thanks for real Enlightenment.
    I have questions on “negative interaction” in context with conservation of energy – then it will be same motivation of Dr.Vivek Sharma. It is better to break away towards new physics, if the discovery of Higgs particle(boson) make physics absolute – in a peaceful manner.
    I have strong evidence, Enlightenment caused the most bloodiest conflicts(part of the nature?).

    No equipment is more sensitive than human consciousness(a reality). Sometimes mathematics run on its own little more and surpass intelligence and consciousness – make to appear(illusion) equipment is more sensitive.
    Speed of light and conservation of energy, put limit to consciousness making it a reasonable intelligence – the Enlightenment.
    This was also the problems observed in Quantum entanglement, quantum superposition, EPR paradox.

    /If his rivals were right, it would mean a cascade of Nobel Prizes flowing in the wrong direction and, even more vexingly, that Dr. Sharma and his colleagues had missed one of nature’s clues and thus one of its greatest prizes; that the dream of any physicist — to know something that nobody else has ever known — was happening to someone else./-

    There may be new physics beyond and within human consciousness – we may never bring down to intelligence?

  6. Vanishing quasar?
    Is there any substance to the story about a “vanishing quasar” in one or more of the high energy events in the super collider? Was a micro quasar created, took a short elliptical orbit then vanished without decay into any other particle(s)? Could this event, if true, lead to the conclusion that indeed there are more that 4 dimensions?

    Or that we do live in a very unstable vacuum and it is possible to reverse back to true vacuum, either by quantum tunneling or more chaotic mechanism of just pure luck … creating symmetry at random.

    How much luck, choas, is there? If the Higgs is indeed at 125 GeV then could such a light Higgs simply vanishing locally at some point when the universe stretches itself so thin that it will not require much to reverse down to true vacuum. At this point the “vacuum hole” will draw all matter and annihilate it, removing it all at the speed of light?

    What exact does a light Higgs boson really, Professor and did the SM predict it at this level?

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