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Science

Higgs Range Narrowed; Hunt Enters Final Stage 80

Posted by timothy
from the next-is-the-challenging-stage dept.
gbrumfiel writes "For forty years, the Higgs boson has remained a theoretical construct, but by Christmas, scientists may have a pretty good idea of whether it's real or not. Nature News reports that a new analysis has further narrowed the Higgs range, and data gathered this autumn at the LHC should be enough to show a faint signal from a Higgs, if it's there. (Already one signal has disappeared earlier in the year.) Physicists hope to finish their analysis of the autumn data by the year's end, but even if they come up empty-handed it won't be the end of the story. The Higgs is commonly referred to as the particle that endows others with mass, but its real appeal is the ability to unify the weak nuclear force with electromagnetism. If there is no Higgs, some other mechanism for creating a unified 'electroweak' force should be found inside the LHC."
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Higgs Range Narrowed; Hunt Enters Final Stage

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  • by tedgyz (515156) * on Saturday November 19, 2011 @10:33AM (#38108572) Homepage

    Merry Christmas! We will all get Higgs bosons in our stockings. But I guess they have always been there, we just couldn't see them.

    • by dotbot (2030980)
      I've been reliably informed that Santa Claus is delivering mine.
    • by iggymanz (596061) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:18AM (#38108836)

      No, I predict we will find nothing, and have to invent a new standard model. That would be more fun and more interesting.

      • by tunapez (1161697)

        Definitely, and as Occum's Razor suggests, probably. We have on the books now, apparently, neutrinos faster than light, a preponderance of theorized dark matter still MIA and many alternate dimensions/universes that cannot ever be proved/disproved.

        Perhaps Wigner was wrong, are we creating maths to describe what we (want to)see, rather than explaining the fundamentals, after all?

        • by tunapez (1161697)
          1st sentence of OP clarification:

          Definitely more interesting...
          ...probably needing a new theory.
        • by iggymanz (596061)

          we already know that the observable universe is a very tiny fraction of the whole thing, on the order of 10^-26 or less. Any possibility of FTL travel by particles opens the possibility to expanding our observations beyond that realm, maybe to somewhere with different physics.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @10:47AM (#38108648)

    I'm still in awe every time I see any pictures of the LHC.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:08AM (#38108774)

    For those of you interested in LHC physics I would highly recommend this blog:

    http://profmattstrassler.com/ [profmattstrassler.com]

    As far as I can tell the author is an extremely well-respected physicist (disclaimer: I am a theoretical physicist but do not work on LHC physics) and I also find his blog very clear and I like the extra level of detail.

    (The author also does not try to sell you his own favorite theory of everything, a thing I've seen happening a few times too many in the blogs out there.)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Thanks AC! Even if it's your own blog. It's a refreshing change from the usual /. response to scientific posts these days.
    • I thought about linking to another particle physics blog I follow for LHC news, but I realized I don't want the comments to be even more full of crackpot spam.

      Strassler's blog is good stuff, with few enough comments that he has time to answer questions.
    • Thanks for that! It looks to be an awesome blog.

  • Santa would be found if only we searched the pole more thoroughly! Continue billion $ search until Santa > 1
  • Irony? (Score:1, Funny)

    by binaryhat (2494814)
    Higgs boson + Christmas = God Particle?
  • by Kz (4332) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:24AM (#38108872) Homepage
    Electromagnetism and weak nuclear force have a solid unification theory and supporting experiments since the 70's (and a few nobel prizes as back as '79 at least). Higgs boson is involved in electroweak symmetry breaking, and possibly unification of electroweak with the strong force.
    • by BitterOak (537666)

      Electromagnetism and weak nuclear force have a solid unification theory and supporting experiments since the 70's (and a few nobel prizes as back as '79 at least). Higgs boson is involved in electroweak symmetry breaking, and possibly unification of electroweak with the strong force.

      Umm, without a mechanism for symmetry breaking, the current model for electroweak unification doesn't work (the Higgs is ultimately supposed to be responsible for the difference in mass between the photon (massless) and the W and Z particles (massive). The unification of the strong force with the electroweak force is the subject of grand unified theories (GUTs), and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Higgs boson. Proton decay, for instance, would be a signature for a GUT.

  • What is "real" ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:50AM (#38109056)

    Serious question here: What does it mean to say that Higgs bosons are "real" ?

    Physicists often go out of their way to point out that theory is under-determined by data. If you have two theories that account for all our data, but one theory contains a Higgs bosons and the other theory does not, do we still say that Higgs bosons are "real"?

    Or, does saying they're "real" assume some standard model of physics as the context for the statement?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:59AM (#38109130)

      Real in this case means independently measurable and not just a construct to compensate for the difference between the mathematical model and the data.
      If it is real the model works, if it isn't real the model only works in certain circumstances.
      The end goal is to find a model that can explain the universe without dark matter made out of handwaveium and explains why neutrinos shows up too early and stuff like that.
      When the model works without footnotes that says "Only applies to macroscopic numbers" and stuff like that then whatever it descirbes can be called "real enough"

      • I have submitted this as a question to "ask Slashdot" but my question is the following: Is the superluminal neutrino considered to be compatible with information theory? And if it is, why exactly would it be incompatible with Einstein? I have uploaded the draft of my analysis on the topic to http://relevancetheory.blogspot.com/2011/11/general-theory-of-relevance.html [blogspot.com] and http://www.scribd.com/doc/73219743/The-General-Theory-of-Relevance-and-Reliability [scribd.com] and would love all help verifying the argument. In esse

        • by Prune (557140)
          This. [amazonaws.com]

          This is what happens when people forget that computer science isn't real science and try to mix the two (and I say this as someone who is a computer scientist). Either that, or you're trolling, in which case, I suggest you put the clearly enormous effort you've spent trolling to better use.
          • Thank you for your answer! I think you have a very valid point and I want to make that clear right away.

            I do not intend to troll, but I realize it comes off like that every time I fail to clearly point out exactly the disclaimer you do now - this is in the end only supposed to be a computer science model - and of course I might be failing at that too which is what I would like to ask a real computer scientist such as yourself about!

            Any connection between a strict information theoretical model and real physi

    • Re:What is "real" ? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Mr_Huber (160160) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @01:49PM (#38109882) Homepage

      As real as the neutrino. The neutrino was a prediction based on a model of physics at the time and remained theoretical for thirty years until an experiment confirmed their existence. Like the Higgs, it was thought to be nearly impossible to experimentally verify for a very long time. And when it was observed, it was not observed directly, but through the behavior of particles it interacted with. The interacting particles, in order to behave as they did, must have interacted with something that had the precise qualities ascribed to the neutrino. Therefore, a neutrino must have interacted with them. Therefore, neutrinos exist.

      Now we have hot and cold running neutrinos and can use them to probe all sorts of interesting things. But we have still not directly observed them in a detector, because, by their nature, they don't show up. But we know that when we see particles behaving as if they interacted with a near massless, half spin object interacting weakly, we call it a neutrino and move on.

      • by sFurbo (1361249)
        What do you mean by "directly detect"? Most detectors aren't direct, they work by cleverly assuring that whatever we want to detect produces charged particles, some light or some heat. But we can go further: The light is not directly detected, it produces a charge which is detected. Charges aren't detected directly, either, they produce a current which is detected. AFAICT, the only meaningful way to draw the line is by our nervous system: Something is directly detected if it effects a response in our CNS. T
    • Serious question here: What does it mean to say that Higgs bosons are "real" ?

      Physicists often go out of their way to point out that theory is under-determined by data. If you have two theories that account for all our data, but one theory contains a Higgs bosons and the other theory does not, do we still say that Higgs bosons are "real"?

      Or, does saying they're "real" assume some standard model of physics as the context for the statement?

      Reality, in science, is not a useful label to use. A more useful term would be "observable," or "measurable." Science provides explanations about phenomena we observe; the theories we construct about observable/measurable phenomena are the explanations. And because we use the purely abstract tools of mathematics to articulate them, theories can have no connection with the phenomena they describe. The debate over the ontological status of any of the theoretical constructs deployed in science belongs in

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @11:58AM (#38109118) Homepage Journal
    And on film will appear, faintly, 'import weak-electromagnetic-force'.
  • This is it! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by kanguro (1237830)
    I think the search is narrowing. A recent post by a young grad student (Z. Cochran "Crystaline dual-lithium isotopes and Higgs interchange-related spacetime warping" Phys. Arc. Let. XI 77182-8172 ) has the community buzzing about special crystal configuration of lithium isotopes than can create a resonating mesh were vacuum-energy generates Higgs particles that can create a stable warping effect on the spacetime fabric. That effect, uncontrolled, can account for the slightly faster than light neutrino strea
    • by siglercm (6059)

            ^
            |
            |

      It's a joke, people! Laugh!
      Ever heard of Zefram Cochrane?

    • Damn people, hand in your geek cards. Does no one recognize a dilithium crystal when they see one?

      • Never mind that, any mention of "spacetime fabric" screams "Star Trek" - to physicists, there's just "spacetime"
  • by gmfeier (1474997) on Saturday November 19, 2011 @02:00PM (#38109974)
    I suspect that we have fallen into a trap similar to the Ptolemaic system. Just because it works mathematically doesn't mean the universe is obligated to actually match the predictions. I wonder if there is an underlying false assumption that is causing all the current uncertainties. Simply put - has the speed of light been absolutely constant since the big bang? If not, a lot of things look entirely different.
    • Or perhaps reality is mathematics and each time our measurement precision increases we notice things that we couldn't previously see. If the Universe were a huge digital image comprised of plank length pixels; currently our best technology can at best get a few pixels for every thousand... That's akin to the difference between a 16x16 thumbnail icon compared to the mega-pixel digital image it represents.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I think it's important to realize that our scientific models are really models. Is the universe *really* like our models? Personally (and I am not a physicist) I think it's unlikely. I think it is much more likely that there are many possibilities that can map on to our observations. We use the models that are most useful to us. Some people may choose to believe that the models themselves are reality, but that's just another religion IMHO.

      As far as our mathematical models make predictions and those pre

    • Except there was nothing wrong with the Ptolemaic system - up until it did not match observations.

      If the best resolution of your instrumentation is observing just the apparent passage of the sun from a fixed point on Earth, then it would be reasonable to conclude the sun in fact is travelling around the Earth. With only 2 reference points, you can't conclude anything else.

      You could propose that the sun in fact is travelling around the Earth, but without additional measurement there's no way to establish thi

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 19, 2011 @02:11PM (#38110028)

    US LHC Blog [quantumdiaries.org]
    I like this very much. Lots of physics explained for us mere mortals (who still have some scientific background).

  • ... the Universe is held together by stupidity. It's a theory, based on the fact there is so much of it about.

"It's ten o'clock... Do you know where your AI programs are?" -- Peter Oakley

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