Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Higgs Non-News

We interrupt your irregularly scheduled amateur philosophizing to bring you an unimportant bulletin from the world of science. Once again, the Higgs particle has not been sighted!

Yes, folks, you heard it here first - unless you heard it somewhere else first, in which case, not. After a summer of breathless excitement, followed by an autumn of suspenseful waiting, and then a week of wildfire rumors, the infamous Higgs particle has again failed to show up.

And that's actually sort of exciting.

Exactly in line with the rumors, the two big LHC experiments, ATLAS and CMS, both reported small excesses in events at an energy of about 125 GeV. These excesses are actually slightly more than what would be expected from a Standard Model Higgs particle. (See Matt Strassler's excellent post about what might be in store if there is more than one Higgs particle, or none.) Similar hints were reported earlier this year at 140 GeV - the new results conclusively rule out a Higgs particle with this higher mass. In fact, the whole range from 130 GeV up to 600 GeV has been ruled out, again as far as a Standard Model Higgs.

These excesses are still far too small to make any kind of a claim about a new particle being discovered. Disappointingly, the bumps in the two data sets are at slightly different energies - ATLAS  at 126 GeV and CMS at 123 Gev. It will take months for the experiments to combine their data, but Phillip Gibbs at viXra has already done a quick-and-dirty combination, and even included Tevatron data.

So is this the first hint of an experimental detection of a Higgs particle, or will it all go away with more data? No one can say right now. Certainly, there will be an intense focus now on 125 GeV, and the data will be looked at in many different ways. By the end of 2012 there should be about five times more data - enough to conclusively rule the Higgs in or out at these energies.

Either way, we are entering a new era in our understanding of the structure of the universe. This is the beginning of the end of a 40 year long wait.

[Revised viXra link 12/17/11]

1 comment:

  1. Strassler's Higgs FAQ was quite helpful. Thanks for the pointer.