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Science

CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All 137

An anonymous reader writes Physicists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the Nobel Prize for discovering the Higgs Boson, but some scientists believe that the particle may not have been discovered yet at all. A new study by a group of scientists from the University of Southern Denmark raises the possibility that the data collected from the Large Hadron Collider could instead explain another type of subatomic particle. Mads Toudal Frandsen, a particle physicist, explained in a statement, "The CERN data is generally taken as evidence that the particular particle is the Higgs particle ... It is true that the Higgs particle can explain the data but there can be other explanations, we would also get this data from other particles."
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CERN May Not Have Discovered Higgs Boson After All

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 09, 2014 @11:37AM (#48345167)

    These skeptics are going to destroy the planet.

  • Other particles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @11:38AM (#48345171) Journal

    "As you can see here, I have postulated another particle which would leave exactly the same evidence as the Higgs, but would not be the Higgs. I call it the 'Madds' particle."

    OK, that's unfair, but "techni-quarks" which could make up dark matter? William of Ockham is going to need to set up a factory in Shenzhen at this point.

    • by rd4tech ( 711615 ) *

      OK, that's unfair, but "techni-quarks" which could make up dark matter? William of Ockham is going to need to set up a factory in Shenzhen at this point.

      Dark matter is dark, so probably not, cause they are made in technicolor.

      (Yes, my assumption is as valid to their statement, as theirs is to higgs theory :)

      • Supersymmetry (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @05:52PM (#48346719) Journal
        Technicolour models have been around for ages and this does not seem to be anything significantly new. Indeed it is no different from Supersymmetry which also has a Standard Model-like Higgs boson...plus another 4 on top two of which are electrically charged. SUSY can also explain Dark Matter if the lightest SUSY particle is stable and has far better theoretical motivation than techni-colour models.

        While this does not make it any more likely to be correct I really hope techni-colour is not how the universe works. Having a smaller scale for the fundamental particles will push the energy of any new physics likely to solve the fundamental questions we have far higher and probably beyond the reach of current accelerator technology.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You madds bro?

    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      It's amazing how people don't get this. Data that confirms both your new hypothesis and the established theory (or both your new hypothesis and the null hypothesis), isn't a reason to believe you.

      Sure, of course, you have to explain existing data, but that's just table stakes: you have to actually predict something new. When there's new data that only your hypothesis predicted, then it's interesting.

      • Despite the flood of high-precision data from particle accelerators, in some sense particle physics is a data-starved science. It's much easier to come up with a new hypothesis than to perform an experiment that can distinguish it from others, and so there is usually a plethora of theories that match any given new observation, and all the ones before it. But some of these hypotheses will be simpler and hence more predictive (fewer free parameters) than others. As far as I'm aware, the "standard model Higgs"

    • by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @03:30PM (#48346045)

      So now Higgs and Englert are in a superposition of having deserved the nobel prize and not having deserved it, right?

    • Uhm, the particle at CERN had properties that didn't match either of the predicted properties of the Higgs boson. The particle they detected fell almost exactly in the middle of where the competing theories said it should have been.

      In other words, they got it WAY fucking wrong, or this is a different particle. It is CERTAINLY NOT LEAVING THE SAME EVIDENCE AS THE PREDICTED POSSIBILITIES FOR A HIGGS BOSON.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Uhm, the particle at CERN had properties that didn't match either of the predicted properties of the Higgs boson

        And which two properties are you talking about? If they got it so wrong, you should be able to name them, or look it up easily otherwise.

        Here's a hint, there are three main properties of the Higgs boson predicted by the Standard Model: Spin 0, where spin 1 has been experimentally eliminated for the candidate, and results are now more than three sigma certain of eliminating the other alternative spin 2. The parity was also predicted and confirmed to more than 3 sigma. Finally, the biggest one was the deca

  • Mind tricks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Latent Heat ( 558884 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @11:41AM (#48345177)
    (waves hand)

    These are not the Higgs' you're looking for . . .

    (Associate Editor turns towards reviewers) Let their paper through . . .

  • by CrowdedBrainzzzsand9 ( 2000224 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @11:44AM (#48345193)
    I'm pretty darn sure it proves the existence of Unobtainium.
  • Fairly common.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by f3rret ( 1776822 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @11:51AM (#48345223)

    There's a whole community out there of theoretical phycisists that do nothing but come up with alternatative theories explaining existing data.

    This is their job, they might not beleive they're right, they just came up with the theory because it was not the currently believed one.

    • There are loads of Higgs impostor models where something else mimics the Higgs. Perhaps they're unlikely but it's not easy to come up with alternative explanations that are both mathematically consistent and don't contradict observations.
      • Re:Higgs impostor (Score:5, Insightful)

        by f3rret ( 1776822 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @12:14PM (#48345291)

        There are loads of Higgs impostor models where something else mimics the Higgs. Perhaps they're unlikely but it's not easy to come up with alternative explanations that are both mathematically consistent and don't contradict observations.

        It's got nothing to do with those theories being 'imposters', it has everything to do with the the fact that no theory should ever be unchallenged, even if a theory is correct (as the Standard Model might very well be) it does not mean we should not try to come up with alternative explanations for the phenomena we observe in experiments.

        If the Standard Model is correct it should ideally be "more" correct than those "imposter" theories.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's got nothing to do with those theories being 'imposters',

          The theories are not imposters, the specific category of theories the GP was referring to contain "Higgs imposters", i.e. particles that to various degrees look like what is expected for the Higgs boson. What the poster said was correct, that as more observations are made, it can be more and more difficult to come up with alternative theories that are consistent. That isn't a statement about what should and shouldn't be done, only that it becomes harder.

          If the Standard Model is correct it should ideally be "more" correct than those "imposter" theories.

          We already know that the Standard Model is wrong on

        • by paiute ( 550198 )
          Theories are not "correct", just strongly supported by experimental evidence.
          • by f3rret ( 1776822 )

            Theories are not "correct", just strongly supported by experimental evidence.

            That was kind of my point. The point of these alternative theories is not to attempt to disprove the current leading theory but to offer an explanation that also could explain the data. Then new data is found that does not support the alternative theories but do support the main leading one, and you come up with new alternative ones.

            If you only work with one theory you are falling victim to confirmation bias.

        • But every one must understand and at all times remember that creating a theory that fits the data is a completely different thing than coming up with a theory that makes predictions than end up coming true. Until one of these alternative theories makes a prediction that is proven true, it is just a theory with no evidence going for it at all.
          • But that's why I don't understand how it makes sense to argue about whether the observations are about "the Higgs boson," or something "else." If the Higgs boson was previously a prediction, as were these others, and new observations are consistent with several of them but don't rule out all but one, what is the basis for saying one was the real one and the others were impostors?
  • by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @11:53AM (#48345227) Homepage

    Many in the physics community were hoping for a "weird" Higgs boson, which might point the way towards new physics such as supersymmetry or technicolor.

    Alas, the Higgs boson we actually discovered doesn't seem to require any new physics. It's covered by the Standard Model. It is, by physics standards, annoying dull. This has done a good job of killing off several people's pet theories (some models of supersymmetry and technicolor).

    Rather than just admit that "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras" (ie, the simplest explanation is usually the right one), they are busy adding epicycles to their pet theories to try to accommodate reality (which, admittedly, is how science works).

    Being sensationalist and dumb, journalists hear things like "it *may be* that...", and trump up all sorts of stupid headlines like "ZOMG, scientists didn't discover Higgs after all." And we get Slashdot posts like this.

    • by Eevee ( 535658 )

      And yet, there are zebras.

      On July 4, 2012, CERN director general Rolf Heuer announced that his team had detected âoea particle consistent with the Higgs boson,â and that the discovery was confirmed by two separate experiments (ATLAS and CMS). However, Heuer noted that additional data was required to confirm that it was, in fact, the so-called "God particle."

      The article basically says we've found something new, but by running some more tests at CERN, we can pin it down better. Which, as we can see

      • Protip: any article that uses the phrase "God particle" is also wrong on the facts.

        • by Eevee ( 535658 )

          Like it or not, the term "God particle" was created by Leon M. Lederman for a book he wrote. Now, Dr. Lederman has won the Nobel Prize for Physics, the Wolf Prize in Physics, and the National Medal of Science. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that given a choice between you and him...well, he's the one who is right.

          However, to be fair, once you've won your Nobel Prize, I'll start paying attention to your opinions compared to his.

          • given a choice between you and him...well, he's the one who is right.

            on what?

            choice of analogy?

            he chose that b/c it lent significance to his work...which was not new theoretical work but confirming a model we already know is incomplete

            getting academic accoloades doesn't mean you are immune from criticism of language choices

            "God particle" is not a good analogy...what about the Higgs/Boson does it help you understand?

            it's more like trolling Creationists than anything else...

            "god particle"....please

    • by radtea ( 464814 )

      Rather than just admit that "when you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras" (ie, the simplest explanation is usually the right one)

      What makes horses simple and zebras complex?

      Answer: nothing.

      The issue is not simplicity, but prior probability. All else being equal, horses are more likely in most locales than zebras. When you hear hoofbeats, the plausibility of "There is a horse nearby" and "There is a zebra nearby" go up by the same factor. Since horses were already more likely, horses are still more likely.

      Ockham's razor works, in the very few cases it does, as a consequence of Bayes' rule, and invoking some ill-defined notion of "simp

      • >What makes horses simple and zebras complex?

        Depends on where you are. If you're in Nevada, horses are the simple explanation. If you're in Kenya, zebra's are the simple answer. Without adequate location data, neither is simpler than the other, since both exist.

    • The energy range for the particle detected fell almost exactly in-between the values expected for super symmetry and the values expected for the standard model.

      I don't think you've been paying attention if you think it matched up perfectly with everything already thought about the standard model. It most certainly did not.

    • they are busy adding epicycles to their pet theories to try to accommodate reality (which, admittedly, is how science works)

      yes...it definitely is analogous to epicycles

      but you're wrong to say, "that's how science works"....that attitude is what causes people to have 'pet projects' in the first place

      the problem is Academia has evolved to become bloated and cloistered...

      if we were funding science well, and giving new scientists freedom, **we wouldn't have to have pet projects**

      in Academia, a scientist is not encouraged to do new work...the typical mantra is to silo yourself and never truly experiment

  • So if we're lucky this won't be the true Higgs partilce, as that would point to more discoveries involving a fifth force dubbed the technicolor force and allow us to see particles composed of techni-quarks. Should this come to be, then that probably more than justifies the expense of the LHC as just finding the Higgs would not really give us radically new knowledge.

  • This is just about how science is supposed to work, even when one model fits the observations its not necessary that its the right one. And as with the Higgs the standard model predictions are quite a dead-end when it comes to dreaming new and exiting physics so pretty much every theoretical physicist is trying to figure out a alternative, less boring, explanation for the LHC observations.
  • It would be great if this *wasn't* the Higgs, because then we would have some clue how to move past the Standard Model. It sucks when nature agrees with your predictions.
    • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @12:39PM (#48345373) Homepage

      Yeah, perhaps, but science isn't religion and having hopes and strong beliefs into a replacement model doesn't make it real and valid. The most probable explanation for the bump in data observed at CERN LHC is the Higgs. The techni-higgs is much, much less probable, by many magnitudes of order because it relies on a yet to discover techni-force and so on.

      So, unless we have a load of new data we cannot explain with the Standard Model, it is very unlikely this particle is something than Higgs.

      But the guy got his 15 minutes fame.

  • ....Sheldon Cooper employed!

  • And in any case, throughout the whole discovery they were all really careful to repeatedly emphasise that they found a particle with Higgs-like properties, rather than outright stating that they found the Higgs.

    So it's not really news that it could be something else with similar properties. Okay, someone came up with a model. Great. But why do those headlines make it sound like "in you face, CERN, you got it all wrong"?

  • by Pro-feet ( 2668975 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @04:28PM (#48346263)

    TFSFS, i.e. The First sentence of TFS, is a load of crap. Physicists Peter Higgs and Francois Englert won the Nobel Prize for *predicting* the Higgs Boson, *not* for discovering it!

    And the rest of the summary doesn't make me a bit interested in reading TFA either. There's been Higgs imposter models out there from before the discovery was made. And sure they have their merit. But as long as we have no new physics observed, the Standard Model covers it just fine.

  • by Arterion ( 941661 ) on Sunday November 09, 2014 @04:53PM (#48346401)

    This article really makes me think that journalism need to be laid to rest. In the case of physics specifically, there are some brilliant communicators. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michio Kaku, I'll even throw in Bill Nye (though he's a Mechanical Engineer) are all great examples of people who actually (this is the kicker) UNDERSTAND THE TOPIC they're talking about. I think if a "journalist" wants to report on something they aren't personally an expert on, or at least understand well, the whole article should be framed as in interview. An article like this just compromises the integrity of the journalist and journalism at large.

    *editing note* The section below is me going off on a tangential rant. Thank you amphetamines.

    I somewhat blame how writing is taught in schools and universities. It's nearly an essential requirement that you integrate quotations into your writing as if they were naturally part of your sentences. A question/response formation is forbidden, and while there is a special rule for including a block quotation, I've very rarely seen it used in practice. I understand a English 102 research paper is quite different from news piece like this, but that it is deeply ingrained not only into writers, but also readers (since we mostly did papers at least in high school) to expect that kind of quotation, mostly to the detriment of communication.

    I think it's because there is an academic obsession with attribution, where you are given scary warning about PLAGIARISM and being banished from the university, should you fail to properly attribute! Yeah, if you pull a paper off the internet and present it as your own, that's clearly cheating. The academics are so obsessed, I suppose, because being published is some required right of passage. So then students spent half again the cost of tuition on textbooks every year, and then hardly use them. Why isn't Elizabeth Warren posing hard questions to the wealthy textbook barons and the academics who support their industry? I suspect that a non-trivial amount of student loan debt was acquired buying textbooks. Yes is complicated, but at the end of the day, we're collectively paying to prop up this system, and the end result is crappy journalism like this. (editing note: surprised I managed to bring that full circle.)

  • Stephen Hawking told us there is no god, not even a particle. :-)

    http://www.cnet.com/news/steph... [cnet.com]

  • the whole "Higgs Boson!!" hype makes me sick

    the Standard Model is already obsolete...we know it is insufficient

    all the CERN press was just hype

    confirming (or not!) a model that we already know needs to be revised is the opposite of science

  • ...they can turn it into a YouTube video

You had mail. Paul read it, so ask him what it said.

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