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Science

Higgs Territory Continues To Shrink 118

Posted by kdawson
from the hoggamus-higgamus dept.
PhysicsDavid writes "Announced this morning by Fermilab, the possible territory for the Higgs boson has shrunk even further. Combined results from the CDF and DZero experiments at the Tevatron have ruled out the existence of the Higgs with a mass between 160 and 170 GeV/c^2 with 95% confidence. At 90% confidence the Higgs is ruled out between about 157 and 185 GeV/c^2. Here is Fermilab's press release. If the Higgs is to be found at the lighter end of the currently allowed range of 114 GeV/c^2 to 185 GeV/c^2, its detection will be harder than at the heavier end due to the kinds of signals that the Large Hadron Collider and the Tevatron will see. Some physicists think that a lighter Higgs will be easier to spot at the Tevatron as the background processes which obscure the faint signal are not as prevalent in those experiments."
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Higgs Territory Continues To Shrink

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  • Re:Boring... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gerafix (1028986) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:14AM (#27181973)
    It isn't a fact at all in fact. I don't think we can say we know everything that is left to know about high energy physics except the big Higgs.
  • Re:Boring... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hordeking (1237940) on Friday March 13, 2009 @11:29AM (#27182193)

    It isn't a fact at all in fact. I don't think we can say we know everything that is left to know about high energy physics except the big Higgs.

    Nah, when they find H, they'll start looking for something else. That is, if they find H. There's no guarantee the model that predicts it is even correct. That's what experimental physics is all about. And usually the answer to your question is another question.

  • Not boring! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore (538166) on Friday March 13, 2009 @12:01PM (#27182709) Journal

    The fact that this is all that's left of high energy physics says a lot.

    The fact that you say this shows that you do not know a lot about high energy physics. Even if the Higgs does exist somewhere in the gap shown there is a huge problem trying to explain why it has such a small mass compared to the scale where gravity is important and the Standard Model has to break down. The chances of this occuring by pure chance are about the same as you winning the UK national lottery for about 5 weeks in a row - if you did that people would not be thinking 'wow you are incredibly lucky' they would be wondering how on earth you cheated the system. Similarly we need to figure out how the universe 'cheated' and made the Higgs mass so light.

    There are also several other questions we need to solve: what is all the dark matter?, what is all the dark energy?, why is there no anti-matter in the Universe?, is the neutrino its own anti-particle?, how does quantum gravity work? etc. etc. You need to remember that so far all of science has been based on the 4% of the Universe made of atoms. 96% of the Universe is made of stuff we do not understand so thinking that the Higgs is all that is left is just crazy talk!

  • Re:Not boring! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Friday March 13, 2009 @01:18PM (#27183865) Homepage

    The GP would have been more accurate to say something more limited, like referring to "high-energy physics from the LHC" rather the just "high-energy physics." The painful truth is that the LHC may end up finding essentially nothing of interest. It's possible that Fermilab will discover the Higgs, and absolutely nothing else that's very exciting will ever be found using the general type of accelerator and detector technology represented by these systems.

    It's unlikely that physics in general will ever become a a completely understood subject. However, certain subfields of physics do go extinct. A century ago, a Nobel prize was awarded in physics for the invention of a certain type of lighthouse, and many grad students were still doing their PhD theses on subjects like the motion of a certain type of top on an inclined plane. More recently, low-energy nuclear structure physics is an example of a field that is arguably just a corpse, because the techniques used to study it (such as arrays of HPGe gamma-ray detectors) have reached the point of diminishing returns. It's quite plausible that the same kind of stagnation will now happen in high-energy accelerator physics as currently practiced.

    [...] we need to figure out how the universe 'cheated' and made the Higgs mass so light. [...] There are also several other questions we need to solve: what is all the dark matter?, what is all the dark energy?, why is there no anti-matter in the Universe?, is the neutrino its own anti-particle?, how does quantum gravity work? etc. etc. You need to remember that so far all of science has been based on the 4% of the Universe made of atoms. 96% of the Universe is made of stuff we do not understand so thinking that the Higgs is all that is left is just crazy talk!

    There's a strong possibility that all of these questions will turn out to be ones that can't be answered by LHC-style accelerator experiments. Some of them almost certainly can't be. For instance, the LHC doesn't come anywhere near the Plank energy scale, so there's virtually no chance that it will give any insight into quantum gravity. Dark matter and dark energy probably aren't going to give up their mysteries to particle accelerator experiments, either; that's more likely to happen with astronomy or cosmic ray observations. The only thing that was really guaranteed to happen at LHC energies was that there had to be either a Higgs mechanism or some other, similar mechanism occurring in that energy range, because the standard model sans Higgs is provably not self-consistent in this energy range.

  • Re:Math != Science (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baron_Yam (643147) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:40PM (#27185029)

    The math is a model of our current (science-derived) understanding of things.

    If the math turns up results we have yet to observe (or observe the lack of) then we look. Because there are two possibilities - the math is wrong or it's pointing to something new.

    Either way, it's science. Observe, theorize, and test are all in there. The math is just a tool.

  • Re:Boring... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2009 @04:14PM (#27186351)

    Fortunately *some* politicians tend to look beyond their terms and actually care about their nations. Hence they allow funding for people that the are smart enough to decide where the money is to be distributed.

    That is why physicists don't go to laymen and ask for money.

    Finally, you may know that the Internet was connected to universities due to precisely these things.

    And for the clueless turds that just think science is a waste and would rather play their WoW? The answer is right here:

    http://info.cern.ch/www20/

    Without CERN, the HTTP browser you like so much probably would not have even existed. So I guess that return on investment is quite significant even BEFORE the real science was done.

    How about NASA sending people to the Moon? Only possible through major R&D on miniaturizing the Apollo computers. But hey, the world market for computers is only a dozen or so (said IBM in 60s) so who needs miniaturization.

  • Re:Boring... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t (324782) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:37PM (#27188819) Homepage

    How the hell are we supposed to know?

    When electricity was discovered, did anybody imagine computers or even electric motors or light bulbs?

    When Babbagge was working on his Difference Engine, did he talk about PCs or the Internet to his investors?

    When Hero of Alexandria made his Aeropile in the 1st Century, it was just a toy that was used to open temple doors. Only a thousand years later the steam turbine was found to have practical uses.

    Nobody probably expected CDs as an application for a laser. Back when one was made probably the best justification for laser research would have been spectroscopy and interferometry, applications that are obscure and hard to understand to normal people.

    I imagine that the discovery will initially confirm or disprove some theories, but not have much practical application at first. But who knows if it'll lead to hovercars some years later, or turn out to be of interest only in specialized areas of physics research.

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