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Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery At LHC 225

Posted by samzenpus
from the maybe-maybe-not dept.
Magnifico writes "LiveScience is reporting that scientists are abuzz over a controversial rumor that the 'God particle' has been detected by a particle-detection experiment at LHC at CERN. The Higgs boson rumor is based on what appears to be a leaked internal note from physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 17-mile-long particle accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland. It's not entirely clear at this point if the memo is authentic... The buzz started when an anonymous commenter recently posted an abstract of the note on Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit's blog, Not Even Wrong. This could be a flat-out hoax or a statistical anomaly or... confirmation of the particle that bestows mass on all the other particles."
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Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery At LHC

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  • by 3seas (184403) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @09:53AM (#35920744) Journal

    It is easter..... and it is a rumor too!

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @09:54AM (#35920748)

    crowbar

  • by underqualified (1318035) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @09:55AM (#35920760) Homepage
    to make hard-on jokes [largehardoncollider.com] again?
  • Can't be (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The_Wilschon (782534) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @09:57AM (#35920780) Homepage
    If this is what I was hearing about at work on Friday (I'm a particle physicist), then it can't be the Higgs. The rate of production is too high by a factor of 40.
  • by ndogg (158021) <the DOT rhorn AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:03AM (#35920816) Homepage Journal

    This isn't the first time this has happened. I don't know why this particular event is getting so much attention.

    That said, one of the things that's exciting about this is that they are detecting it at higher energies than were expected by the Standard Model, which would mean that a few laws of physics might have to be rewritten. I love it when that happens. It's so boring when everything just falls into place where expected.

    Oh, by the way, the new season of Doctor Who. There was something I wanted to mention about it. I just can't remember what it was. It's like on the tip of my tongue.

    • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:48AM (#35921040) Homepage

      This isn't the first time this has happened. I don't know why this particular event is getting so much attention.

      Because the LHC has been created, and funded, largely by "selling" the Higgs as a super-special "God particle".

      In fact it's nothing at all different than any one of the other particles in the standard model that were predicted and later found. Well, one difference, there are no other particles left in the SM, so if you want to have a job, you have to make sure someone thinks it's worth spending a few billion on.

      • by Candid88 (1292486)

        If you have a better idea for determining the structure of the universe then please let us hear it.

      • The LHC isn't intended to specifically investigate the standard model, though.

      • Because the LHC has been created, and funded, largely by "selling" the Higgs as a super-special "God particle".

        Was it? From what I can tell that's only how the media presented the LHC after it was almost/already built. As far as I could find, the news about the budget approvals in '97 don't even mention the Higgs, but other experiments.

        • by sjames (1099)

          They could have built it in the U.S. as long as they added a magnetized shaving mirror so they could shoot down Russian^WChinese^WNorth Korean^W^Wterrorist spy satellites.

          • by johanw (1001493)
            US shot down the SSC project. :-( That could have been an even more powerfull accelerator.
            • by sjames (1099)

              That's exactly why you have to bolt on some sort of very expensive and totally impractical military application.

      • by Alomex (148003)

        It's a huge waste of money: too much capital for too little in return. This kind of money would have been enough to give a job to every unemployed PhD in physics out there for life.I bet way more results would have come out of that group (including a cheaper way to detect the so far elusive Higgs Boson) than we will ever learn from the LHC, boson or no boson.

    • by Werthless5 (1116649) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @03:25PM (#35923038)

      It's the first time that such a clear Higgs result has been found. This case is interesting for a few reasons

      1) It's in the mass-range that was excluded by LEP and Fermilab
      2) The cross section is ~30x higher than the Standard Model prediction
      3) It was produced as an internal communication (ie it was posted Wednesday so that the ATLAS Higgs group could look at it), but then ATLAS physicists posted and talked about by ATLAS physicists in departments around the country and on blogs around the internet. This indicates that all of the secrecy and careful step-by-step approval processes in order to prevent embarrassing false-positives is meaningless; if there's a really exciting bump in the data, then physicists will want to talk about it before all of the details have been checked over by other experts. This is both good and bad; it's good because these are scientists who are clearly very interested in their craft, but it's bad because now if the paper turns out to be wrong then it's going to make the entire ATLAS Collaboration look bad because the information was not meant to be shown publicly yet (ie if there's a mistake in some code somewhere and it gets caught during the coming weeks of review before the paper is even approved for internal ATLAS distribution, and months before it's approved for public consumption, then the ATLAS conveners will look stupid simply because a lot of scientists got a little too excited and jumped the gun)

      • by siglercm (6059)

        +1, IN SPADES.

        Someone with mod points, *please* mod parent up :)

      • " if the paper turns out to be wrong then it's going to make the entire ATLAS Collaboration look bad"

        Who cares about looks? Only shallow ppl. If you ignore them, they'll have to find some other way to get attention than focussing so much on looks all the time.

    • I don't know why this particular event is getting so much attention.

      Well, it is the "god particle", you know. Once it is discovered -- I guess "revealed" is a better word for this one -- once it is revealed, it will be the trumpet call of the Lord or some such bullshit.

      Seriously, Leon Lederman made a big mistake with that book title [wikipedia.org]. (No, I don't like "champagne bottle boson", either, and I'm surprised that the French haven't sued someone over it anyway [wikipedia.org].)

  • Let's at least wait for the darn thing to be published.

    And knowing how things go in scientific circles it will probably go like this:

    Tevatron publishes a 3ð experiment and later refines it to 5ð "controversial, nothing, fluke"
    LHC publishes a 3ð experiment that may be Higgs but with wrong mass, charge and color: "OMG Higgs was discovered"

    • by JamesP (688957)

      Ok, darn I mean not ð

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Heh, you didn't think you could use the sigma sign on slashdot did you? News for nerds, where scientific notation is frowned upon.

        • by JamesP (688957)

          Yeah, maybe we have to write it in Latex notation: \sigma

          • by Kjella (173770)

            Nah, if it was possible you'd use the HTML entity. Many are allowed, just not that one. Examples:

            &gt: >
            &lt: <
            &aelig: æ
            &oslash: ø
            &aring: å

            However:
            &sigma:

            In fact, none of the greek letters will work. Or pretty much anything else from maths etc.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      They've tried this trick with political policy... "lets leak some possible future policies and see what the reaction is...". Now the scientists are at it too!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:22AM (#35920910)

    The Higgs-Boson is a predicted but until now unobserved particle (entity smaller than an atom) that is expected to have high mass.

    The problem is that detection of this particle is very costly, involving a particle accelerator the length of nearly 35 football fields and a matching scale beneath it. Other particles are crammed together with great force many times per second using this accelerator, and if a heavy Higgs-Boson particle is created, the building weighs a little more than normally expected for a short time.

    As you might have guessed, any sort of event that causes things to weigh slightly more or less, such as tectonic plate movement, tidal forces, or the rising of the sun must be anticipated and corrected for lest the system produces a false positive. A false positive is an ion (or particle) that looks positive at first, but is actually not. This leads to the occasional and premature celebration of the discovery of the Higgs-Boson, which is why this story is currently considered a rumor.

    • by FeepingCreature (1132265) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @12:18PM (#35921626)
      Beautiful. They should have hired you for Look Around You S2.
    • by bunratty (545641)
      Can't tell if you're a troll or just misinformed. In any case, the story about how we detect it by whether is causes things to get heavier is BS. We detect it like any other heavy, short-lived particle -- by examining the particles that it decays into.
    • The problem is that detection of this particle is very costly, involving a particle accelerator the length of nearly 35 football fields and a matching scale beneath it.

      Are those imperial football fields or metric football fields? It's hard to convert to Libraries of Congress without knowing.

  • Wired article (Score:4, Informative)

    by philj (13777) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:24AM (#35920922)
    Here's a Wired [wired.com] article about the rumoured Higgs sighting: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/04/higgs-rumor/ [wired.com]
    • by jd2112 (1535857)
      What a coincidence! That's just down the street from a 7-11 where there was a rumored Elvis sighting on the same day!
  • by JoeThoughtful (1945502) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:26AM (#35920926)
    Strange how such a small rumor has so quickly acquired such large mass.
    • by JamesP (688957)

      Yeah, it spontaneously broke the symmetry between certainty and attention drawn. Or maybe it didn't.

  • by Nailer235 (1822054) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:31AM (#35920954)
    Discovering the Higgs Boson would be a huge confirmation of the Standard Model, but it seems like the only reason popular culture cares about it is because of its stupid nickname. Can we just agree to stop calling it "The God Particle?"
    • by heptapod (243146) <heptapod@gmail.com> on Sunday April 24, 2011 @10:49AM (#35921046) Journal

      Indeed, it's just the Jesus Particle. It decayed for your sins and on the third day became Americanium 237.

      • by pitchpipe (708843)

        it's just the Jesus Particle.

        Wouldn't that just be a small portion of the iPhone?

        I thought it was the Zombie Jesus Particle: it ate a souliton, but it really wanted BRAINSium.

    • But it is proof of the existence of an un-seen all powerful being who cares enough about our individual ant like lives to bestow special dispensations upon us just for asking... and he tests our faith in him by repeatedly ignoring our righteous worship and punishing us with natural disasters.

      The scientists said so... it is called the God Particle after all.

    • by ukemike (956477)

      Discovering the Higgs Boson would be a huge confirmation of the Standard Model, but it seems like the only reason popular culture cares about it is because of its stupid nickname. Can we just agree to stop calling it "The God Particle?"

      Actually it's much more simple and innocent than than. The LHC was built to find the Higgs Boson. It's the biggest, most powerful, fastest, and most costly physics experiment EVAR! We (popular culture) love a success story. We love the drama of rumored success and possible abject failure. It's the drama that is exciting. Among the better educated non-physicists we are also aware that the existence of the HB would be a big confirmation of the current theory, and the absence will be a huge puzzle. How

    • It's even worse: some religious nuts are against the LHC, because they think that the point of finding the Higgs boson is to prove/disprove the existence of God (hence, "The God particle"). It's stupid and shifts the spotlight from the actual cool science they are doing.

    • by JamesP (688957) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @01:27PM (#35922140)

      Let's call it the HFCS particle, since it makes everything heavy...

    • by glwtta (532858)
      If it's not the God Particle, then how come this discovery has come out, arisen you could say, on Easter Sunday? Answer that, smart guy!
  • Discovery of the Higgs will lead to the theory which describes the unification of all forces, which will trigger the end times: Heaven on earth and the revealing of all truth.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/19550880/GUT-The-Grand-Unified-Theory-A-oneact-play-with-seven-blackouts [scribd.com]

  • Was this published by Social Text?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 24, 2011 @11:32AM (#35921214)

    Someone left a copy of the note on the printer in my office building. (I work on CDF at Fermilab, but there are others in the building who work on ATLAS at CERN.) The gist of the article is that they found a bump in the diphoton mass spectrum at a mass of ~115 GeV. If the Higgs exists, it is expected to produce a bump in that spectrum, and 115 GeV is a very probable value for the mass of the Higgs. (Experiments at LEP ruled out masses up to 114 GeV, but a mass as low as possible above that fits best with other measurements.)

    Now, the inconsistencies: The bump that they found is ~30 times as large as the Higgs mass peak is expected to be. However, due to field theory that I don't want to get into here, the Higgs peak in this spectrum could be larger than expected if there exist new, heavy particles that we haven't discovered yet. The latest published result from CDF sets a limit of about 30 times the expected rate at 115 GeV in the diphoton channel. (Yes, this means that, if you're optimistic enough, there's just enough wiggle room to fit a Higgs in there while accommodating both measurements.)

    The internal note is very preliminary and uses a crude background estimate; I'll have to see a more thorough analysis before I make any judgment on it. We shouldn't have to wait very long; I expect that after this leak, they'll be working overtime to push out a full published result as soon as possible.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bmuon (1814306)

      Yup, further analysis is needed to confirm it is the Higgs or something completely new. The Resonaances blog [blogspot.com] has good speculation cover as usual.

    • by ron_ivi (607351)

      Awesome that Anon Coward at slashdot is among the more reliable sources of science information these days.

    • by BitterOak (537666) on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:55PM (#35922832)

      I have a question for CDF folks:

      If this does indeed turn out to be a viable Higgs candidate, is its mass sufficiently low that the result could someday be duplicated/confirmed at Fermilab? Would it require more running time than is currently planned for the Tevatron? Would it possibly lead to an extension in order to confirm the LHC result?

    • My question is: is this "anomaly" statistically any better, so far, than the one recently found with the Tevatron? Should we really be getting excited about either one... yet?
    • Very nice summary. IIRC, they're using the same continuous background estimate that is recommended by the official ATLAS Higgs group. Of course, I could be wrong, but that's why the note is undergoing review (like all notes do) before it's approved as an ATLAS internal note.

      My hope is that the group did actually find the Higgs. There's not much meat in the paper, but they do provide a lot of references to official Higgs group notes, so there's a chance that they did everything properly and made a real di

  • So we've got a Schrödinger memo here.. It is, could be or isn't, but in the end nobody knows what the fuck.. :)

  • by rueger (210566) * on Sunday April 24, 2011 @02:07PM (#35922434) Homepage
    Priest says "Hey! You're not allowed in here!"

    HB says "Oh yeah? Without me you've got no mass!"

    Buh-duh_boomph... I'm here all week...

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