back to article Boffinry bitchslap brouhaha: Higgs and Hawking head to head

Famous retired physics prof Peter Higgs - of boson renown - has stingingly counter-poohpoohed the theories of his equally well known Nobel Prize rival, Stephen Hawking, who has already poohpoohed Higgs' particle concept. The clash of intellects is expected to be settled by particle-punishment results at the Large Hadron Collider …

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Paris Hilton

the duelling boffinry heavyweights

Sorry, just wanted to see that phrase again...

Paris, because she knows what do do with a heavyweight boffin!

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Boffin

Question...

I was explaining to the missus that, in a sense, it's more exciting if they *don't* find the Higgs boson, because then they'll have to re-draft the standard model.

So... she says, does that mean they'll have to spend another fifty billion?

No, says I, because all those years of data from CERN and Fermilab could be re-examined.

But hang on. There must have been monstrous amounts of data collected over the years. How much of it has been kept, and how much discarded because it was deemed not to show anything interesting?

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Alien

What about SUSY, then?

Vector Bundles at Dawn!

http://img241.imageshack.us/img241/8962/susyzr5.png

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Stop

Huge Assumption

Of course, there is the possibility that neither of these two "boffins" are correct. Scientists who treat theory like fact are no better than anyone who believes in a religion. It's not a fact if it's based on faith and flimsy rationalisation.

The last thing science needs is "My God's better than your God" type arguements.

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Paris Hilton

Some of the more interesting things ...

Have been discovered when people were looking for something else/ accident.

I'm looking forward to my anti-gravity, zero-point powered, flying car with my sat-nav able to negotiate all 14(?) dimensions.

Hmm - time for a lie-down now..

hmm Paris, lie down

ttfn

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Anonymous Coward

Boffinry?

(C'mon Sarah, we know you can't resist a good boffinry every now and again ...).

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If Higgs wins the Nobel prize ...

... he'll have to share it with Brout and Englert, 2 Belgian physicists who published their article about a month before Higgs. According to Brout, Higgs even admitted having read their article before he published his.

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Hmm

Hmm, the LHC seems a bloody expensive way of settling a $100 bet.

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Paris Hilton

what if..

...it is there but they miss the data, or its not even detectable....

who wins then? hrmmmmmm

paris, with the quizzical look of nuclear questioning plastered all over her face like concrete...or makeup...I can never tell the difference.

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Boffin

The answer

is to not turn on the LHC. Until we do both Hawking AND Higgs are both right. And my cat is both alive and dead.

Sincerely,

Schroedinger.

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Anonymous Coward

Wernstrum!

That is all.

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cant we just

fire them both around and let them collide - the winning scientist is the one that survives?

exciting times indeed!

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Boffin

@Neil

To try and answer your question...

CERN have a very strange data retention policy. Basically they back up data using in-house software to tape and hope it gets saved. As they collect so much data the loss of one, or more, sample(s) isn't considered significant (unless it's the one with the Higg's Boson in it!!). Recovery is a word and nothing more...

They try and keep the data for many years so that as new data theories are developed they can re-analyse their data against the new theory.

One big problem is that tape technology is rapidly changing and they may not have the ability to recover all of the data they want. Also tapes deterioriate and CRC errors can occur effectively destroying a data stream. But, as mentioned, the loss of some data isn't considered significant so they don't really care...

If only life was so easy in the real world.

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Boffin

Answer

I don't know about elsewhere, but our particle physics group has rooms full of data on film, magnetic spools, dats etc mouldering in the basement.

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data storage at CERN

Surely the data from all past experiments is safe - on 8" floppy disks, in the storage room in the basement.

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Alert

Playmobil?

You're gonna need some more legos...

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Joke

Austrian Rifles

were reputed to have a 180 degree bend in the barrel: not good for snipers.

The CERN duelling rules: each professor sits in one of the detection chambers, and fires off a proton shot at his opponent.

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Coat

"Duelling Boffins"

Isn't that a piece played on two Theremins?

*ahem* the one covered in curious particles please....

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Silver badge

There's a reason they call it the "god particle"

The Higgs Boson is supposed to be the "thing" that gives other particles their mass, begging the question... where does it get its mass from? Some other particle?

The standard model seems flawed to me for this reason alone, the idea that you need some special "particle" to give mass to thing just strikes me as an attempt to fill a hole in the model. A "god particle" of the gaps, you might say.

You know if they don't find it there'll be about half of them saying the thing is obviously even more elusive than we thought and that they need to build an even bigger accelerator to see it.

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Alien

I vote for no Higgso boso

it seems to me far too trite and trivial that the Grand Theory Of Life The Universe And Everything is all tied up and a done-dusted deal by discovering but 1 particle. What would we do with the hordes of redundant beardie-weirdie particle physicists?? We need two more desktop PC maintenance techs here, but that's about it...

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Pirate

2 scientists enter

ONLY ONE CAN LEAVE - LHC TLC SHOWDOWN PPV

...

id pay to watch the two of them beat the snot out of each other... imagine the spectacle of the victor throwing the other into the LHC and...

wait,

what would happen if you put someone inside the LHC?

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@Neil Hoskins

As I recall the torrent of data is so great that the detectors (or ancillary equipment) do event selection in hardware; only the tiny fraction of interesting looking events are logged. Presumably "interesting" is not too closely tied to any particular existing or proposed model, so there'd be a reasonable hope that the recorded data is still useful.

Disclaimer: I'm not a particle physicist.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Lewis Page

Keep up the banter Lewis,

I always have a good laugh at your pieces.

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Coat

How do they know what to look for ?

I mean... some people think it exists... others not. So proton 1 hits proton 2, smaller particles go everywhere... assuming 'new' undiscoverd particle(s) pop up on the scanner... how will they know it is the one their looking for ? Will god vanish in a puff of logic ? will man be able to prove black is indeed white ? Just curious.

The anti-gravity invisible one...

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Interview from hell

True story: I once went for an interview (*) where the very first question I was asked was

"Do you find the Higgs mechanism esthetically pleasing?"

After a bit of fumbling around I basically said "no", and failed the interview. I've kinda resented it's potential existence ever since So imagine my delight to find that, albeit 20 years late, Prof Hawking has come out in public to back my point of view :-)

BTW, there is an icon here ( <-- ), it's just that you haven't yet got a monitor big enough to see it.

(*) The interview was for a a Particle Physics Phd place, so it was probably fair game although most people opened with the more friendly "so you found us alright?" :-)

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Boffin

wot if

they're both wrong...

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Taking Bets?

My money's on Hawking

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Happy

Mary Whitehouse

See that Higgs Boson particle.

That's *you* that is.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UMedd03JCA

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Anonymous Coward

Big Bang vs Particle Burst

Before the "big bang" there was nothing, not a single electron. Yesterday, the worlds best super-scientists "pretended" they were looking for a "god-particle". Unfortunately those super-scientists started with matter in this "so-called" experiment. RETARDED! It's ridiculous to think you can duplicate the big bang with matter, when in the beginning, there was no matter; I repeat: "not even a single electron".

Some scientists have no idea what they are looking for, because they don't know how to ask the 1st question. SAD REALLY!

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Anonymous Coward

fifty paces

So how far is a "pace" in a wheelchair?

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This post has been deleted by its author

Patriotism

Well I'll be supporting the British entrant, and hoping that the Higgs boson doesn't reveal itself. C'mon Hawking!

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@AC

"Before the "big bang" there was nothing, not a single electron. Yesterday, the worlds best super-scientists "pretended" they were looking for a "god-particle". Unfortunately those super-scientists started with matter in this "so-called" experiment. RETARDED! It's ridiculous to think you can duplicate the big bang with matter, when in the beginning, there was no matter; I repeat: "not even a single electron".

Some scientists have no idea what they are looking for, because they don't know how to ask the 1st question. SAD REALLY!"

OK, yeah, whatever. I don't really know where to start...

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Sam

So you can't recreate the big bang with matter because there wasn't any....

May I be the first to coin the phrase: "'Ere John, it's all gonna bit Heisenberg, innit!"

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Stop

<The LHC is situated 50 to 175m beneath the surface>?

I understand the Heisenberg insecurity principle, and I get it that the LHC is stationary. but this is ridiculous.

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Pirate

£10 ON Hawkins

I have seen his Exoskeleton (And that was in 1997)

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/39133

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Boffin

@Marvin the Martian

It's depth is for shielding purposes, so the results aren't tainted.

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Go

Duel in the LHC?

Reminds me of the joke about the irish firing squad.

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Gates Halo

Data Retention at CERN

In the past (when LHC was just LEP), all the data from recorded "events" was backed up on two copies of Cipher tape (3600 bpi). Each truck load of backup sets was stored in two off-site locations, one in the US and one in Gloucestershire, UK.

With the advent of the LHC plans were afoot to pick a different backup technology, but retain the same off-site storage locations; the chosen backup storage method was Toshiba’s HD-DVD technology and the two-off site storage locations were SecureVault Corp, floor 42 in World Trade Center Building No.2 and the underground storage facility at Tewkesbury.

These plan are now under revision.

Bill 'cause his head's so big, the LHC can just about fit on it!

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Thumb Down

The Standard Model sucks anyway...

'Empirical' means 'we don't understand it and just keep tweaking the parameters to fit the results as more data comes out'

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Happy

My vote is for Hawking

He was funny as hell on Futurama... anyone that can laugh at themselves is okay by me - this Higgs fellow sounds like a git

"Fry: Steven Hawking, aren't you that guy who invented gravity?

Steven Hawking: Sure, why not."

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Dead Vulture

@AC 2

"Before the "big bang" there was nothing, not a single electron. Yesterday, the worlds best super-scientists "pretended" they were looking for a "god-particle". Unfortunately those super-scientists started with matter in this "so-called" experiment. RETARDED! It's ridiculous to think you can duplicate the big bang with matter, when in the beginning, there was no matter; I repeat: "not even a single electron".

Some scientists have no idea what they are looking for, because they don't know how to ask the 1st question. SAD REALLY!"

You must have been reading the Vulture Central abridged description of the LHC. I'm pretty sure the unabridged version said the LHC is trying to simulate energy densities a short time AFTER the big bang. I'm no physicist, but I'm pretty sure the term AFTER is significant to the concepts involved.

Sarcasm warning: Do I need to define "after" verses "before"?

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Sam

So how far is a "pace" in a wheelchair?

One rotation.

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@Marvin the Martian

The the LHC is big, and the surface above it isn't flat.

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Boffin

You are off mass shell

"The Higgs Boson is supposed to be the "thing" that gives other particles their mass, begging the question... where does it get its mass from? Some other particle?"

Simple:

http://www.phy.uct.ac.za/courses/phy400w/particle/higgs1.htm

Complex:

http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0703280

Can't remember whether the neutrino masses are included in there or not. Also, most of the mass of hadrons (protons, neutrons, mesons) comes from their bound energy, namely the supposedly massless gluons gluing the quarks.

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Coat

@Some of the more interesting things ...

"Have been discovered when people were looking for something else/ accident."

Quite right.

I was looking for my socks this morning, and found a fountain pen!

Woooaahh, sod Hawkins, Higgs & Heisenberg, that defies explanation.

OK, I'm gone :-)

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Boffin

@AC - "before" the big bang?

Before the big bang there was nothing, not even time. So if there was no time there was no "before". I think you should go off and watch Songs of Praise before you give yourself a headache.

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In the words of Harry Hill

There's only one way to settle this...

FIGHT!!!!!

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Creating matter from nothing?

Ahem, the event under inspection is not big bang but the period shortly after; i.e. fractionally after big bang.

"The Universe started with a Big Bang – but we don’t fully understand how or why it developed the way it did. The LHC will let us see how matter behaved a tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang."

http://www.lhc.ac.uk/

The distinction matters.

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Boffin

Odd bet for Hawkings

He must be cleaning up his bets a bit. He's been known to bet for a subscription to "Playboy". Even strapped, a man needs porn.

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