Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Science

Why All the Higgs Hate? It's a 'Vanilla' Boson 205

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the not-a-special-snowflake dept.
astroengine writes "Decades of searching and a 7.5 billion Euro particle accelerator later, why is everyone so down on one of the biggest discoveries of the century? Well, as the evidence strengthens for a bona fide signal of a 'Standard Model' Higgs boson with a mass of 125 GeV, many scientists are disappointed that the discovery of an 'ordinary' — or 'vanilla' according to Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll — Higgs removes any doubt for more exotic physics beyond the Standard Model. It's a strange juxtaposition; a profound discovery that's also an anticlimax. But to confirm the identity of the Higgs candidate, LHC physicists still need to measure the particle's spin. 'Until we can confidently tie down the particle's spin,' said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci at this week's Rencontres de Moriond conference in Italy, 'the particle will remain Higgs-like. Only when we know that is has spin-zero will we be able to call it a Higgs.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why All the Higgs Hate? It's a 'Vanilla' Boson

Comments Filter:
  • by Visserau (2433592) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:06AM (#43129039)

    TFA is mainstream butt-hurt-ness that the progress of science isn't appropriately entertaining, and unsurprisingly misses a few key points. Sure an announcement of 'we are making progress and confirming what we expected" isn't as exciting as the original announcement, but is just as important (if not more so) to the scientific process.

    When/if this particle is confirmed as the higgs, that does not remotely "[tie] up the Standard Model of physics in a pretty, neat, red quantum bow" (TFA) let alone "[remove] any doubt for more exotic physics beyond the Standard Model" (TFS). Both are patently false. A major reason for looking for the higgs in the first place (beyond confirming that part of the SM) is to being to actively investigate the higgs field, which is moderated by the higgs boson itself. The higgs does not impart mass to particles as is usually claimed (although it's not an unreasonable simplification). The higgs particles are what moderates the higgs field, the presence of which is what brings about mass in particles. (The higgs - and presumably all/most particles - are actually just field fluctuations. What we think of as a discrete particle is really then just the instantaneous average of the fluctuation [wave]).

    I can't find my exact sources for this, but at least some of them were from the Higgs section of this site, which I highly recommend. Meanwhile, this article is quite interesting anyway:

    http://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/particle-physics-basics/the-known-apparently-elementary-particles/the-known-particles-if-the-higgs-field-were-zero/ [profmattstrassler.com]

    • by Biff Stu (654099) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @01:10AM (#43129241)

      The disappointment in the high energy physics community is over what comes next. For many decades, high energy physicists have been building bigger and bigger colliders. Each collider has left some unanswered questions justifying the next giant collider. If the standard model seems to fit all the data and there's no clear question to be answered by the next collider, then what's next for high energy physics? All the "new physics," dark matter and dark energy, is coming from astrophysics these days, and they need telescopes, not colliders.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Visserau (2433592)

        There are still a ton of unanswered questions in the standard model. Later I'll take another look for the article I'm thinking of, which is a particle physicist discussing why this is the case. He partially agrees with what has been said ("the discovery is not that interesting") for an entirely different reason - because all the mysteries REMAIN! We just move a step closer to being able to properly reveal them.

        • by tqk (413719)

          There are still a ton of unanswered questions in the standard model.

          Sure? Higgs was supposed to be the end of the story (not that I ever believed that. fneh).

          • by Eskarel (565631)

            The problem with the standard model is and always has been that there's no way of unifying what happens at the planetary scale with what happens at the subatomic scale. We have theories to explain both individually, but no theory to explain both together. To the best of my understanding(which isn't very deep I confess) the Higgs doesn't actually provide that theory.

          • by bryonak (836632)

            The Higgs boson is supposed to be "the end of the story" only according to bad media reporting.
            In reality, pinpointing the Higgs particle was supposed to enable us to ask more meaningful questions... Now it seems that we still have to ask the same questions as before (only slightly more precise), which is nice but not what some have hoped for.

      • The disappointment in the high energy physics community is over what comes next. For many decades, high energy physicists have been building bigger and bigger colliders. Each collider has left some unanswered questions justifying the next giant collider. If the standard model seems to fit all the data and there's no clear question to be answered by the next collider, then what's next for high energy physics? All the "new physics," dark matter and dark energy, is coming from astrophysics these days, and they

        • Yeah, but now all that shiny grant money is going to those star gazers! And they won't even use it to build things that go boom!

          • Yeah, but now all that shiny grant money is going to those star gazers! And they won't even use it to build things that go boom!

            Cheer up! It could go to geologists.

        • by Kjella (173770)

          If the model used by physicists doesn't agree with what is objectively seen by the astrophysicists with their shiny new telescopes, then there is still work to be done by the physicists.

          True, but you still need to know if a larger collider will answer anything. For example we still haven't seen the graviton, we're doing a few indirect searches for gravitational waves but a graviton detector is so far beyond our means we know it wouldn't be sensitive enough. The LHC will go up to 14 TeV, is there anything interesting in building a 20-50 TeV collider or do we need PeV (1000 TeV) or EeV (1000000 TeV) energies to answer more? For so many years of work and billions of dollars we at least expect

      • by sycodon (149926)

        So it's a case of umpteen bajillion dollars for bigger and bigger devices and the answer is, "Yeah, that's what we thought"?

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        The disappointment in the high energy physics community is over what comes next. For many decades, high energy physicists have been building bigger and bigger colliders. Each collider has left some unanswered questions justifying the next giant collider. If the standard model seems to fit all the data and there's no clear question to be answered by the next collider, then what's next for high energy physics? All the "new physics," dark matter and dark energy, is coming from astrophysics these days, and they need telescopes, not colliders.

        Colliderscopes?

      • by rubycodez (864176) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @01:39PM (#43131893)

        nonsense, the list of what is unanswered is long

          there are HUGE things on the horizon for fundamental discoveries in physics.

        nature and composition of dark matter
        is there a relationsip between gravity and strong / electroweak forces?
        can general relativety be combined with quantum theory?
        nature and source of cosmic inflation
        source of baryon asymmetry, more matter than antimatter

        and about a dozen more...

    • The problem (Score:3, Insightful)

      by qbitslayer (2567421)

      The problem with the Higgs discovery is that it does not explain anything new. Why? Because only failed predictions lead to new and exciting science.

      • by Visserau (2433592)

        Confirming the higg's presence in an experiment is step 1 to designing experiments that manipulate the higgs in an attempt to learn more about it and the higgs field, as in my OP. Sure its not paradigm shattering, but there's still plenty of new and arguably exciting work to be done.

        I also aluded to the fact that excitment really isn't the point. It certainly is important in motivating people, but science would not be science if it was driven by what was exciting, as opposed to posing hypothesies and testin

        • I agree with you but if you don't get the public excited, you'll lose their support and their money. The public is looking to be surprised with discoveries that take their breath away. Even a new hypothesis that explains things in a different light would be more exciting then the Higgs boson. If the physics community cannot come up with something that blows everybody's socks off, they can look to further reductions in funding. Sorry. Telling it like it is.

          • > I agree with you but if you don't get the public excited, you'll lose their support and their money.

            hmmmnotreally. Scientific research is not your average "X-got talent"-show where you have to keep the public exited. Where you have to bombard the consumer with loud short bursts of dumbed down emptiness in order to keep them focused. Where the public walks away if things can not be explained in a single one-liner with words no longer than two syllables. And with walking away, taking the advertisers with
        • by AK Marc (707885)
          The point is that if you design a test to learn more about higgs, then you execute that test, and verify the presence of higgs. If you generate it, then you confirmed the presence at the same time that you did something "useful."
    • by Goldsmith (561202) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @02:40AM (#43129411)

      I don't agree at all. The butt-hurt-ness is all about funding and relevance in modern physics.

      Given that this is a monolithic (minimal competition) field with not much on the horizon in terms of applications or fundamental discoveries, it is shocking and a little embarrassing that there is so much money and so many students in particle physics. Particle physicists did this by positing that the cosmologists, observational astronomers and theoreticians could be wrong about what the higgs was and/or what LHC could show us. More bluntly, there never was a compelling reason to fund and build the LHC unless you believed the particle physicists knew something amazing that none of the rest of us did. The marketing of the "God Particle" was exquisite and effective.

      Now that it looks like everyone else was right, the rest of us in physics are left scratching our heads wondering why we allowed particle physics to grab such a sizable chunk of the intellectual and financial "market share" of our field in the last 20 years. Would we have learned more focusing on cosmology, planetary science, power and energy issues, new materials, biophysics...? We trained A LOT of PhDs to build and operate LHC and there are a finite set of good students with a functionally infinite set of problems to work on.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        I think the amazing part is that so few people mention the Superconducting Super Collider (SSC), which was an American collider canceled mid-construction in the early 90's which was going to be 3 times as energetic as the LHC.

        If all we get out of the LHC is "yeah, we found the Higgs Boson at about the energy that we expected it to be found", then canceling the SSC turned out to be a good move after all. The argument at the time was that we could fund more space-related stuff (ISS, etc..), or the super col
      • by rubycodez (864176)

        "with not much on the horizon in terms of applications or fundamental discoveries"

        what nonsense, the Standard Model does not address:
        natural of dark matter and other exotic matter
        reason for abundance of matter over antimatter
        nature of cosmic inflation, dark energy
        nature of gravitation, relationship to general relativity if quantized
        source of dark flow
        quantum vacuum effect on expansion of universe
        CMB obversed properties not in agreement with theory
        are there magnetic monopoles?
        neutrino rest mass
        source of ultr

        • by rubycodez (864176)

          shouldn't have left grand unified field theory out of that list: how does gravitation fit in with strong/electroweak force?

          in a perhaps related question, how are the values of dimensionless physical constants realized in the universe?

    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:08AM (#43129477) Journal
      I think you are getting a little confused which is not surprising given the site that you linked to! It's a very interesting site but it's talking about the special case where the minimum energy in the Higgs field corresponds to zero Higgs field which not at all the case in the Standard Model.

      The Higgs field does indeed give mass to the fundamental particles. It has a strange property that the lowest energy density of the field is NOT when the field is zero but rather when it has a non-zero value (so very different from a magnetic or electric field). This field is then what couples to particles and the coupling energy is what we see as mass - indeed at a fundamental level this is why mass and energy are the same thing. The Higgs boson is simply a quantized vibration of this field in the same way that a photon is a quantized vibration of the EM field.

      However, to get back to the original discussion point, I would argue that we are seeing exactly what we might expect to see were this a Supersymmetric Higgs rather than a Standard Model Higgs. If you scan the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model phase space with a Higgs mass of 125 GeV then you'll find that most of it has the lightest Higgs looking just like a SM Higgs with only a few percent difference in some of the branching ratios. It will take a few years more data before we can measure things this accurately by which time, with the higher energies after the shutdown, we may have already found something new.
    • by tqk (413719)

      TFA is mainstream butt-hurt-ness ...

      That sums it up pretty well. I also think I'd rather be living on another planet if this is the sort of thing we should expect here.

      Just sayin'.

  • by Myria (562655) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:20AM (#43129083)

    Science of the 21st century will be less about discovering what we can do and more about what we can't. We'll find that that there aren't any radical exotic physics left to discover, cementing the fact that Star Trek will never exist no matter how far technology never advances, for there is no way around c. We'll also be doomed to never having a good energy solution.

    That said, considerable advance in biomedicine and artificial intelligence will happen. Engineering and reverse engineering of the human body will continue to progress.

    The saying that "any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" is probably false: technology obeys thermodynamics. We as humans need to discuss what we want to do once science can no longer progress, something I fear will become true for our grandchildren.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:42AM (#43129159)

      This is pretty much the same sentiment expressed at the end of the 19th century. Considering we don't even know what the majority of the mass in the universe consists of - just something 'dark' - I think it's premature.

    • by tlambert (566799) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @12:48AM (#43129185)

      I disagree with your conclusions; it's very much like the statement that has been (erroneously) attributed to Charles Holland Duell: ""Everything that can be invented has been invented."

      The actual fact of the matter is that there are some string theorist who are deeply unhappy with the idea of a Higgs being discovered (the jury is technically still out, BTW, until the data analysis is more complete and more experiments run). The reason for this is that the mathematics involved in their theories make them falsifiable by the discovery of a Higgs.

      No physicist likes the idea that something they've been spending their life working on for the last 40 years might turn out to be nothing more than some nice mathematics with no relationship to actual reality. This generally doesn't bother mathematicians, but physicists are all about trying to describe objective reality, and they are unlikely to quietly say "You sank my battleship" and walk away from the game board.

      So there is some understandable pushback on the idea from people with a vested interest in there being no Higgs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by John Allsup (987)
        And people so like to believe that science is objective, free of self-interest and politics, and trustworthy as a source of real world insight...
        • And people so like to believe that science is objective, free of self-interest and politics, and trustworthy as a source of real world insight...

          Science? Science is objective and unbiased. Scientists, on the other hand...

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Science isn't perfect, it's just a whole lot better than all the alternatives. Some push-back on a discovery is perfectly fine as long as things eventually settle down in a closer approximation to reality. Are you saying that won't happen here? That's not what the OP was implying.

      • I still chuckle at physicists who think that objective reality can be determined using mathematics, which is a purely abstract tool. Truly useful, but there will always be a gap between model and reality. String theorists are absolutely ok with this -- they don't need to walk away from anything, because they aren't playing the SM game to begin with. The SM is incomplete and cannot ever be complete -- having to plug-and-chug 17 physical constants into your model is not the stuff of a complete theory. Str
      • by bcrowell (177657)

        The actual fact of the matter is that there are some string theorist who are deeply unhappy with the idea of a Higgs being discovered (the jury is technically still out, BTW, until the data analysis is more complete and more experiments run). The reason for this is that the mathematics involved in their theories make them falsifiable by the discovery of a Higgs.

        This is total nonsense. The existence of the Higgs does not falsify string theory. ST has always been intended to be consistent with the standard mo

    • by elysiuan (762931) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @02:05AM (#43129349) Homepage

      This is a strange statement to make when the Standard Model is known to be incomplete since it does not factor in gravity. It clearly is not the final theory if any such thing can exist. I guess it may not meet your criteria for 'exotic' but to say physics is done is comically short sighted.

      • by Myria (562655)

        This is a strange statement to make when the Standard Model is known to be incomplete since it does not factor in gravity. It clearly is not the final theory if any such thing can exist. I guess it may not meet your criteria for 'exotic' but to say physics is done is comically short sighted.

        Physics is not done now, but that time seems to be approaching. It's very clear that diminishing returns has already taken its toll on physics - there are very few observable physical phenomena that we cannot currently explain.

        • there are very few observable physical phenomena that we cannot currently explain.

          95% of the universe is made up of "dark" matter and "dark" energy -- we don't know what they are, but we know there must be something there because we can see gravitational influence on "real" matter and energy. It would surprise me if that 95% region of the universe were perfectly uniform, featureless, and uninteresting. Once we figure out how to observe it, we may find quite a few more phenomena worth exploring!

    • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @02:33AM (#43129403) Journal

      Science of the 21st century will be less about discovering what we can do and more about what we can't. We'll find that that there aren't any radical exotic physics left to discover...

      Dark Matter: makes up ~23% of the mass of the universe and we have no clue what it's fundamental nature is. Then there is Dark energy which makes up ~73% and is accelerating the expansion of the universe. So given that practically all science to date has been regarding 4% of the universe and there is 96% of if out there (that we know of so far) with a nature we simply do not yet understand I can tell you that we know for 100% certainty that there is some "radical, exotic physics" left to discover. What I cannot tell you is its nature nor whether we'll discover it in the 21st century but we know it's there. Even if you don't yet believe in Dark Matter the largely discredited alternative theories to explain the observations involve corrections to Newtonian dynamics and/or gravity which is even more "radical and exotic".

    • by equex (747231)
      The Universe has clearly shown the possibility of breaking c. Inflation and spooky action comes to mind. We just need to harness it. Don't be such a party pooper. And need I remind you that the Universe came into existence from fucking nothing (as far as we know) ? We have barely scratched the surface of C.
    • by Jamu (852752)

      The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.

      I'm not saying you're wrong. Just that people who have said similar things in the past have all been wrong.

    • by jim_deane (63059)

      I don't know what evidence you are using to draw your conclusions. How do you know that there is no exotic physics yet to be discovered? How do you know there is no way around (travel from point to point in our universe being limited to less-than) /c/?

    • Weren't all the dark poo poo theories accepted only in the last couple of decades? I don't see how anyone can think we're close to having a even temporarily stable theory, let alone the final answers.

    • The saying that "any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" is probably false.

      Yup. But the saying "Any technology is indistinguishable from magic for those not sufficiently advanced" will remain true.

    • Science of the 21st century will be less about discovering what we can do and more about what we can't

      How could anyone possibly know that?

    • by evilviper (135110)

      We'll find that that there aren't any radical exotic physics left to discover

      Dark Matter and Dark Energy are two bright, shining examples of radical exotic physics we don't yet understand.

      We'll also be doomed to never having a good energy solution.

      Solar thermal (liquid sodium) and PV are both pretty damn good energy solutions.

      In addition, we KNOW that fusion power is quite possible, as stars already do it. We don't know *exactly* what we need to do to make it happen on a smaller scale, but it's absolutel

  • It is always best to find unexpected results, that increases job security.
    Finding what you are looking for reduces job security.

  • by denzacar (181829) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @01:00AM (#43129225) Journal

    ...worked on finding the hugs boson first.

  • Nobody gets excited because the theory is too complicated. Even a physics major has trouble understanding what the Higgs is (and just repeating "the thing that gives stuff mass" is not an explanation).
    • by John Allsup (987)

      Nobody gets excited because the theory is too complicated. Even a physics major has trouble understanding what the Higgs is (and just repeating "the thing that gives stuff mass" is not an explanation).

      Given the fundamental assumptions a physicist takes on, there is no single, simple, beautiful explanation of our reality. Physics is the best science has to offer, and loses itself in a sea of complexity when faced with certain fundamental questions. Those fundamental assumptions need, I think, a re-examination.

    • I'm taking a course on the Standard model, the Higgs mechanism isn't exactly rocket science. At least not at undergrad level, like you said.
  • The world's physicists want to discover the universe's deepest secrets, and have up until now believed that more and more intricate experiments would gradually force the desired information out. What they are finding is that their efforts have yielded only a reasonably self consistent theory which fits observed facts when they are experimentally observed, yet is massively complex, incompatible with other fundamental theories, and ultimately unsatisfying to the scientist who hopes via his science to underst
  • I think there are still big unexplored frontiers, people just don't know where to look for them because they don't lend themselves to the mathematical tools that were so successful in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    For example, raja and jnana yoga are half nonsense, but not all nonsense. There's some remarkable stuff there that does not have pat psychological or physiological explanations, if you work at it a bit and can cut though some of the crap.

    I don't think scientists have finished figuring out all the i

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 10, 2013 @06:07AM (#43129793)

    A Higgs Boson walks into a church. The pastor says "we don't allow your kind in here." The which he is replied, "but without me, how can you have Mass?"

  • "Only when we know that is has spin-zero will we be able to call it a Higgs." If they're waiting for it to make a guest appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, they could be disappointed.
  • The interesting part of the search is over -- what follows is a couple of decades of shrinking the error bars. As it stands right now, all the data is converging to a bog-stock standard model particle. There is an anomaly in some of the ATLAS data, but the discrepancy is shrinking. According to the LHC data presented at the Moriond Conference [in2p3.fr] on March 6, the anomaly isn't getting worse when more data is included, which means that it probably can be explained by something other than new physics. Add in t
  • I mean, they spent billions building LHC only to find out that Higg's isn't a God particle. Now they shut it down for a few years for a few hundred million in upgrades hoping to find out other theories will not hold up.

    To think if that money was put into practical science, investigate real solutions to real world problems.

    But no, lets build larger colliders and send people to Mars in the hopes that maybe there might be some spin off tech we could all use.

Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.

Working...