Pop went the Weasel, but Vroom goes the LHC

At the end of April, as reported hysterically in the press, the Large Hadron Collider was shut down and set back an entire week by a “fouine”, an animal famous for chewing through wires in cars, and apparently in colliders too. What a rotten little weasel! especially for its skill in managing to get the English-language press to blame the wrong species — a fouine is actually a beech marten, not a weasel, and I’m told it goes Bzzzt, not Pop. But who’s counting?

Particle physicists are counting. Last week the particle accelerator operated so well that it generated almost half as many collisions as were produced in 2015 (from July til the end of November), bringing the 2016 total to about three-fourths of 2015.


The key question is how many of the next few weeks will be like this past one.  We’d be happy with three out of five, even two.  If the amount of 2016 data can significantly exceed that of 2015 by July 15th, as now seems likely, a definitive answer to the question on everyone’s mind (namely, what is the bump on that plot?!? a new particle? or just a statistical fluke?) might be available at the time of the early August ICHEP conference.

So it’s looking more likely that we’re going to have an interesting August… though it’s not at all clear yet whether we’ll get great news (in which case we get no summer vacation), bad news (in which case we’ll all need a vacation), or ambiguous news (in which case we wait a few additional months for yet more news.)

14 responses to “Pop went the Weasel, but Vroom goes the LHC

  1. will be looking forward to that next post, then.

  2. Yes. Do keep us updated. Any thoughts on this putative “fifth force”?

  3. Great to hear from you, Matt. Looking forward to more news from the LHC. Is that where you are working full-time now?

  4. Andrew2margaret

    Great to have Matt back on line. Matt where are you working now?

  5. Hi Matt,

    Keenly interested in what you have to say when the data/results become available. As a side note, whenever you have time, could you explain what inverse pico- and femto-barns when they are used on the Y axis on plots such as this? I know the “barn” refers to the proverbial ‘side of the barn’ in physics, i.e., cross-sections. But what is meant by inverse of an area?

  6. Hello Prof. how are you doing? How are you surviving the “Trumpmania” era? It would be great to have good news from LHC before a very anxious October. 🙂

    Anyway, an unexpected light Higgs boson does that point to a cyclic universe? So close to an unstable vacuum is like we are just living on a pointed extremely heavy pencil balanced by an ever so small force. So, it won’t much change in force for the pencil to collapse. But we are still here and if everything is a wave, oscillations, this force will eventually be restored back and likely balance the pencil again, i.e. another big bang.

    I guess the question is, is the Higgs field variable or a very stable magnitude?

    Good to see back, the Trumpmania thing is just not cool.

  7. Mark: Have a look at Tommaso Dorigo’s posting


    for an explanation of how an inverse picobarn unit is useful

  8. A nursery rhyme for an almost 8 year old? 🙂

  9. Mike Snowden

    One thing I don’t understand about the increase in Luminosity is how much extra trouble there is from separate events that are simultaneous within the parameters of collection. (At the other end of the scale, there is the work on quark/gluon plasmas, which are intrinsically multiple events). An article about these aspects, and (eg) whether gating takes into account lightspeed re reaching the detectors in terms of its trigger slicing, or even whether decay chain interactions can be significant, would be really interesting.

  10. Thanks for update, Professor.
    I heard some crazy rumors, that acc to super symmetry theory
    there could be actually upto 5 Higgs. Couldn’t the new bump be one of them.
    Excuse me for my stupid Q.

  11. The kinematics of Quantum reality : where the Mathematics lead us ? – the problem of Holism.

  12. Leandru Viegas

    Matt, I enjoy reading all your publications and the comments and questions posted. Please keep them coming.
    Thanks very much.

  13. There’s the Fourth Annual Large Hadron Collider Physics Conference (LHCP2016) in Sweden starting this Monday and lasting for the week. I’d expect 1-2fb will have been analyzed in time to add to the tension; it would be too good an opportunity for the publicity machine at CERN not to milk.

    The LHC should add approx 1.5fb/week if there isn’t any more bad luck, giving 10fb by mid July.