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Texas Scientists Regret Loss of Higgs Boson Quest 652

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-could-have-been dept.
MarkWhittington writes "The probable discovery of the Higgs Boson particle is greeted as bittersweet news in Texas. Had the Superconducting Super Collider, at one time under construction in Waxahachie, Texas, not been cancelled by Congress in 1993 the Higgs Boson might have been confirmed a decade ago, some believe, and in America."
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Texas Scientists Regret Loss of Higgs Boson Quest

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  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @06:43PM (#40545789)

    We'll save the "bittersweet" nonsense until it's confirmed.

    As others have pointed out, they have this very accurately as what was predicted. There's not a whole lot more to do to prove it is what they think it is, shy of building another giant supercolider looking for something else, and having it give the same result.

    This is significantly different from the 'neutrinos are faster than light' problem, where neutrino's being faster than light didn't fit with any existing theory, and it didn't really seem to make sense as a physical result and was far more likely something else (which is also in many ways the reason they published a paper saying 'anyone have ideas cause something seems seriously wrong here'). In this case they have a particle predicted by theory, that, within the bounds of how good any physical experiment ever can be*, seems like they've found where they expected.

    *physics theory is usually very much a single effect sort of thing. They predict a single particle with a particular speed/mass etc. Unfortunately physical experiment is never that good. There's always some inherent detector error, certain inherent randomness in systems, some other very minor effects that normally can be discounted but still do something to your results. The unfortunate part here is that the theory seems to so accurately predict the result that we don't have any clues to anything else that might be going on to chase after. If the result had been close, but not quite what was predicted that would have led the way to even more interesting science. As it is physicists now have to start poking at the problem to figure out if there's anywhere the theory does fall apart.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @06:57PM (#40545915) Homepage Journal

    hmmm... an experiment must be falsifiable.

    It's theories that must be falsifiable. Experiments should be repeatable.

  • Re:Texas eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Creepy (93888) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @06:58PM (#40545921) Journal

    actually, for the book it was originally called the goddamn particle because it was so hard to find, then they cut out the damn (seriously!). I think Texas editors had something to do with it.

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @07:14PM (#40546017)

    Forgive me thinking it's premature to jump to conclusions until the information has been vetted by a larger group of scientists

    how much larger a group are you looking for beyond all of the high energy particle physicists in the EU and the US?

    You mean like how they waited 6 months since http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6061/1334.short? (title First Solid Signs of the Higgs Boson Could Be Announced Next Week).

    They've been looking for stuff at the LHC since dec of 2009, and the whole point of the damn thing was to find the higgs boson. And they have been *very* tentative with every piece of data they've talked about since then.

  • by marcosdumay (620877) <marcosdumay AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @07:25PM (#40546109) Homepage Journal

    They run billions of experiments. At that rate, you need higher confidence to be really certain.

    That's why they waited until they have 5 sigma confidence. They had 3 sigma last year.

  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @07:50PM (#40546339)

    >wider group

    You don't even know what the fuck you're talking about when you say "wider group"

    CERN is an international effort, with hundreds of scientists working together. It's a pretty wide group in itself.

    You are, in fact, disparaging the entire effort because you deliberately refuse to educate yourself and insist on arguing from ignorance. You are basically saying that they are wasting everyone's time because you can't be arsed to go and read what's been written by hundreds of people around the globe about this.

    This makes you an asshole.

    --
    BMO

  • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:09PM (#40546501)

    Possibly the clock won't start until they formally publish. It doesn't start until the wider scientific community gets a good look at the data

    uh...

    Not sure where to start with this. Other than the fact that we had presentation here, where I am (and I'm a computer scientist in canada) with raw data from the LHC back in January. Anyone who wants the data can get it if you are part of a collaborating institution. Which at this point is basically all the institutions that have high energy particle physicists.

    There literally is no wider scientific community at this point except maybe china (and frankly, enough of their scientists are in US and European institutions it would be unrealistic to think they don't has the same information as anyone else). I don't know what 'broader scientific community' you think exists, but between Fermi Lab and the CERN you have basically all of the high energy particle physics researchers in the world. I used to be an optics guy, that's a much bigger field with a lot more people in the private sector, but there's no secret high energy particle accelerator in Japan that they'll just pull out of the air to verify this experiment. Fermi Lab and CERN are it, and they're in agreement with a reproduced result. that's why this is all over the news.

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:45PM (#40546751)

    > It does? How does the US lead, when the LHC is in Switzerland?

    Of course it does. The LHC is just one facility in one fairly narrow field. It makes news because high energy physics is sexy.

    Nobel Prizes are awarded to people working in the US at a far greater rate than any other country. Even with recent gains by the rest of the world the US still wins more Nobels than the rest of the world combined.

    http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/peo_nob_pri_lau-people-nobel-prize-laureates [nationmaster.com]

  • by Tough Love (215404) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:46PM (#40546757)

    this whole thing about "we're getting close" was mostly that they were getting close to the end of the list of possibilities

    No, it is because they were ramping up the sigmas. They knew where the Higgs was months ago, and as I understand it, the Tevatron people also had a pretty good idea, based on data collected years ago.

  • Nope. (Score:4, Informative)

    by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @08:57PM (#40546841)

    You are incorrect. The Japanese surrendered unconditionally [educationworld.net] at the end of World War 2. The terms demanded by the allied powers were laid out in the Potsdam Declaration and require an unconditional surrender. These terms were initially rejected by the Japanese. After the bombings, the Japanese agreed to them and surrendered unconditionally.

    The emperor [wikipedia.org] was removed from power, as the terms required, but continues in a purely ceremonial role.

  • by tftp (111690) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:07PM (#40546909) Homepage

    So in fact, maybe merit really is a factor here, because if they're being turned down for these jobs, that shows they probably aren't as good as the people who do get to work there.

    Or perhaps because CERN exists on limited funding and cannot hire every scientist in the world - even if CERN managers love the idea. If a particular place of research is unusually productive ... expect long lines at the gates.

    The experiments on LHC are scheduled years ahead. You cannot just come there, flip a switch and run your own experiment. It will cost millions in electric energy alone. CERN can sustain only a certain number of teams - or else they will be just sitting there and waiting for their time with the machine.

    Perhaps the scientists are employed by universities and have teaching jobs assigned to them. Then they cannot easily move without abandoning their students. (That would be legal but not very nice.)

    Theoretical physicists do not need to be near an experiment. Plenty of physics is done on paper (or in computers.) For those scientists Texas is just as good a place as any other.

  • by bmo (77928) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @09:17PM (#40546971)

    >It has to be disseminated and then other scientists need to look over it all.

    But the other scientists are at CERN already.

    That's what you don't get. You think that CERN is a monolithic entity and not something like an academic institution.

    >As to your insult, you make me sad

    Tough. I've had enough of arguments from ignorance from people who think they matter.

    --
    BMO

  • by mbkennel (97636) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @11:13PM (#40547803)

    "Who the hell knows. Given the fact that you can't get your hands on the original datasets without the right secret handshake or whatever it is that climate scientists use to identify each other they could be doing just about anything,"

    Let me Google that for you.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/data-sources/ [realclimate.org]

    By the way, remember the Berkeley statistician who was a skeptic about global warming and the methodologies by the climatologists? He got their raw data and processed it in what he believed was the right way. The answer came out the same as the mainstream climate community said. They aren't lying, or faking.

  • Re:Texas eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by alcmaeon (684971) on Wednesday July 04, 2012 @11:17PM (#40547837)

    Nice try at the revisionism, but that shit don't fly in the age of Google.

    Here was the Senate vote:

    Kill it:

    • 26 Dems in favor, 29 against, 1 vote not cast
    • 31 Repgs in favor, 13 against, 0 uncast

    Source [senate.gov]

  • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:55AM (#40548261) Homepage Journal

    Nobel Prizes are awarded to people working in the US at a far greater rate than any other country. Even with recent gains by the rest of the world the US still wins more Nobels than the rest of the world combined.

    Corrected for population gives another picture.
    Nobel prizes per million citizens:

    Switzerland: 2.77
    Denmark: 2.33
    Great Britain: 1.51
    Austria: 1.30
    Ireland: 1.09
    Germany: 0.94
    Netherlands: 0.90
    USA: 0.86
    Belgium: 0.82
    France: 0.75

    I've excluded three countries, due to Sweden and Norway being subject to nationality bias, and Iceland not having enough people to be statistically significant with its single Nobel laureate.
    (Sweden: 3.16)
    (Iceland: 3.12)
    (Norway: 1.59)

    Also, keep in mind that several of the Nobel laureates moved between the time of their ground-breaking work and the time of receiving the award. Several to the US, because up until recently, the US paid well, and some to the UK and Switzerland, because the US wouldn't let communists in. This inflates the numbers for USA, Great Britain and Switzerland somewhat, but the trend is still clear - the US doesn't produce Nobel laureates at a higher tempo than all other countries.

  • Re:Texas eh? (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:19AM (#40548387)

    Your numbers are correct but in the opposite direction. The Senate votes cited were to PRESERVE funding for the SSC. It died in the House.

    Don't tout Google if you can't even report what you find accurately.

  • Re:Texas eh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by DesScorp (410532) <<DesScorp> <at> <Gmail.com>> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:23AM (#40548413) Homepage Journal

    Nice try at the revisionism, but that shit don't fly in the age of Google.

    Here was the Senate vote:

    Kill it:

    • 26 Dems in favor, 29 against, 1 vote not cast
    • 31 Repgs in favor, 13 against, 0 uncast

    Source [senate.gov]

    Have you forgotten that all spending bills must originate in the House? Where the the group that led the charge to kill the Supercollider was led by a Democrat with the following vote totals [latimes.com]:

    Voting to kill - 166 Democrats, 115 Republicans
    Voting to save - 98 Democrats, 61 Republicans

    Democrats were a large majority in the House in this period.

  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:38AM (#40548477) Journal

    I've been following this and it sounded like they were going through a very long check list of possibilities. Trying one thing after another. And this whole thing about "we're getting close" was mostly that they were getting close to the end of the list of possibilities.

    Not really, the standard model predicted what was found. however "finding it" involves using statistical analysis on an enormous number of individual experiments. Think of it like a very long time exposure of an extremely faint astronomical object, the longer the exposure the better the clarity of what you have "found". If you have two independent "time exposures" you can combine them for even greater clarity, which is basically what has been done here, two different experiments using different technology and techniques have come up with the same "picture" predicted by the standard model.

    It would be deeply embarrassing if after all this they make a break through.

    If that's what you think then you really need to listen to some actual scientists talking about their work, and there's no better starting point than a youtube search for Feynman interviews, but don't stop there have a listen to Sagan, EO Wilson, and the rest, even Alan Alda is worth listening to, not for his views on the higgs but for the way he approaches scientists in his interviews.
    You will discern a side of human nature in these people, but it's a side that is rarely seen in the political/corporate world, ( the best name I can come up with is "self-skepticisim"). You see, no matter who predicted what, all physicists have "won" because the Higgs has moved from "best theory" to "scientific fact" but it will never reach a point of absolute certainty because physicists will never stop thinking of new ways to test their models.

    I'm obviously a layman and my opinion on these matters isn't worth much.

    The value of your opinion is not limited by your layman status, it's limited by your lack of undersatnding of how to judge the strength of the scientific evidence.

  • by arth1 (260657) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:46AM (#40548511) Homepage Journal

    The Nobel Peace Prize has always been a joke. Don't let it cloud your judgement of the other areas.

    The peace price ius awarded by a different process for different reasons. While the other prizes are awarded by the Swedish Nobel Institute for past achievements, the peace prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee as much as an incentive as a recognition.

    In addition, nominations are restricted to experts in the field and living Nobel laureates for most of the prizes, but for the peace price, it's also open for governments and assemblies.
    Yes, that's right, congressmen from any country are automatically allowed to nominate Nobel peace prize candidates, which is why nominees include such peace loving people as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and George W. Bush.

    To avoid causing political furore, the peace prize is often given for humanitarian reasons, despite Nobel's will stating that it should be given for anti-war efforts and fraternity between nations. This is why people like Mother Theresa and Al Gore got it, despite not having done anything that qualifies by the mandate for the prize. The most controversial prizes were all given as incentive prizes (Kissinger/Tho, Peres/Rabin/Arafat, Obama), presumably in a hope that having received the prize, they would feel more morally obliged to act out promises of peace treaties and military withdrawals (which is specifically given as a qualification for the peace prize). Le Duc Tho was probably the only one who lived up to that, but he also declined the prize.

  • by schroedingers_hat (2449186) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @04:23AM (#40549125)
    Uhm, you seem to be on a rather circuitous route towards what quantum physics is all about -- or at least field theories.
    To take an example, a large atomic nucleus doesn't have a bunch of distinct electrons whizzing about it, it has a bunch of electron-ness in its general vicinity.
    The electron-ness can only be poked/prodded removed and replaced in set amounts. Electron-ness consists of energy, charge, spin and a few other things. These quantities must always be added and removed in specific ratios if you're adding or removing electron-ness. You must remove charge in chunks of 1 electron/proton charge, angular momentum in a fundamental unit of spin (plus a bit if your whole system is spinning), energy in electron masses plus a bit if your whole system is at a different potential, and so on.
    But when the electron-ness is all together, there's no way we know of to distinguish the different bits, and it's even provable that they share certain pieces of information.
    So to go back to your glass analogy, it's as if we discover that we can break an iphone screen into five chunks of glass, and _everything_ glass is made of some integer multiple of chunks that mass. When you have a whole piece of glass, it looks like that -- an unbroken whole, but you can only break bits of a certain mass off no matter what you try (the concept of size is a bit more finnicky). Also if you hit one part of the screen really hard and listen to the echo it'll sound like that portion of the screen was an individual chunk, much smaller than one fifth of the screen for a moment, but if you wait a little while and poke it gently it looks like one unbroken whole again.
  • Re:Texas eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Legion303 (97901) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @08:27AM (#40550579) Homepage

    The Senate votes cited were to PRESERVE funding for the SSC.

    From the link GP posted:

    "AMENDMENT PURPOSE:
    To reduce funds for General Science and Research Activities and terminate the Superconducting Super Collider program for the purposes of reducing the deficit in the Federal Budget. "

    Don't tout Google if you can't even report what you find accurately.

    Don't lie on the internet when google is a tab away, dumb fuck And the mod who voted parent up: you're exactly as dishonest, if not an outright sock puppet.

  • Re:Texas eh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:12PM (#40554575) Homepage Journal

    You don't just get to ignore the tragedy the Clinton presidency was. He fucking sold our nuke tech to China and killed your precious fucking hadron colider

    Congress (more Rs than Ds, see numbers above from other commentors) killed the collider, and despite all the crying and hand-waving, what harm has come from selling nuke tech to China? OTOH he took the Bush deficit and balanced the budget, and turned the Bush recession into a boom. We had no war on his watch. The WTC was bombed and the bombers were brought to justice.

    Tragedy? Bush II was a tragedy. Started with a balanced budget, a robust economy, and peace, and left office the only President to leave office with fewer American jobs than when he went in, crashed the economy (we almost went into a depression), ran up the biggest deficit the US had ever seen, and had us in two wars, one of them the longest in history. The nation was attacked under his watch a year after he was in office, and when he left eight years later Bin Laden was still living in luxury in Pakistan.

    Clinton was a good President and Bush II was possibly the worst President in US history. THAT'S reality, son. Fucking deal with it.

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