Feeds

back to article Texas Higgs hunters mourn the particle that got away

Now that the elusive Higgs boson has, for all intents and purposes, been goosed into existence, the scientific world is popping champagne corks, lifting pints, and otherwise celebrating CERN's apparent success. Well, almost all of the scientific world. Deep in the heart of Texas, a small group of dispirited particle physicists …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Silver badge
Facepalm

Good lord...

The cancelling of the SSC is a sad story, but the fact that "they" rather than "we" discovered something is not the reason.

The important fact is that a theory fundamental to our understanding of the universe we live in has been confirmed. Nobody has ownership over that.

34
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: Good lord...

I take it that you have never wished you had accomplished something that someone else ended up doing because circumstances forced you from your job?

That's remarkably gracious of you. I salute your truly mechanical subjugation of filthy human emotion. With any lluck, you may soon be able to feel absolutely no joy or sadness in anything at all. Would that I could temper my own disappointment in your self-righteous attitude.

9
39
Silver badge

"Nightmare Scenario": Re: Good lord...

"The important fact is that a theory fundamental to our understanding of the universe we live in has been confirmed."

This is not necessarily the case. The problem is exactly as you state: "a theory fundamental to our understand of the universe has been confirmed". But that is the problem: this discovery might turn into what I have seen called a "nightmare scenario": a new particle is discovered but because it is exactly what the Standard Model predicted, it leads to no new physics. As far as I can tell, no one seems to have any idea what to do now...

From Peter Woit's blog "Not Even Wrong ( http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=4837 )

"While this announcement is a great triumph for physics, unfortunately it significantly increases the probability of what has become known as the “Nighmare Scenario”: a SM Higgs discovery and nothing else at LHC energies. Before the LHC results started to come in, this scenario and its consequences was easy to ignore, but we may be getting closer to the point where it needs to be taken very seriously."

"The problem with the 'nightmare scenario' is that it suggests that if you do build a higher energy machine, you’ll see nothing new, i.e. no new phenomena will appear unless you go to some astronomically high energy scale like the Planck scale, and that is way beyond any conceivable technology."

(The first quote is from the blog posting proper, the second is from the comments section.)

6
4
Silver badge

But.

Now that it has been found, what do we do with it?

Maybe it will feel agrieved, am by it did not want to be found?

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Cancelled

Just like the NASA projects cancelled by the Obama administration.

5
8
Anonymous Coward

Re: "Nobody has ownership over that."

Anyone thought to check with the US Patent folk to make sure there's not a mention of 'method and apparatus for imparting mass' in there somewhere? Or perhaps a device to facilitate the collision of charged particles by means of intersecting particle beams accelerated using electrical or magnetic means?

There's still a chance to come out on top!

12
0

Re: "Nobody has ownership over that."

iBoson

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "Nobody has ownership over that."

"iBoson"

well, why else is the new Apple building the same shape as the LHC and SSC ... think that's just coincidence?

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: But.

"Maybe it will feel agrieved, am by it did not want to be found?"

It should have deleted it's facebook page.

the funny side is that no one thought you could get smaller than an atom at one time, maybe the next stage is the matter / antimatter moment of creation from nothing?

I still dont get the cost / benefit ratio of such a discovery and how it will help cure diseases, feed the starving or any other advancement that is not just to please a few Stephen Hawkin types

0
14
Anonymous Coward

Re: Good lord...

"That's remarkably gracious of you. I salute your truly mechanical subjugation of filthy human emotion. With any lluck, you may soon be able to feel absolutely no joy or sadness in anything at all. Would that I could temper my own disappointment in your self-righteous attitude."

Not everyone is as petty minded as you, it seems. Celebrating a shared goal is not a lack of emotion, nor is jealousy the pinnacle of human greatness.

10
1
Boffin

What Mr. Myslewski failed to mention...

What Mr. Myslewski failed to mention, probably because he does not know any physicists of the time, was that the overwhelming majority of members of the American Physical Society, the American professional physicist organization, opposed the SSC being built and were very vocal about expressing their opposition.

3
1

Re: But.

Understanding how the universe actually works allows us to change it from how it is to how we want it. The more we know how it works, the better we can manipulate it in our favour.

I point you towards Newton's laws, thermodynamics, lasers, electricity, x-rays, MRIs, CAT and PET scans and everything else about which someone has wondered how it will make life better.

5
0
Trollface

Re: "Nobody has ownership over that."

iBoson

Does it have rounded corners?

1
1
Silver badge

Re: But. (@ AC Posted Friday 6th July 2012 10:32 GMT )

"I still dont get the cost / benefit ratio of such a discovery and how it will help cure diseases, feed the starving or any other advancement that is not just to please a few Stephen Hawkin types"

Take a look at most of the technologies that nowadays 'help cure diseases, feed the starving' and the discoveries that that brought them, e.g. chemistry, genetics, neurology...

6
0
Bronze badge

Re: But.

Says the man using http protocols to post his comment.

Lets not even mention the uses of mri scanners etc all offshoots of the hunt for the boson.

2
0
Childcatcher

Re: But. (@ AC Posted Friday 6th July 2012 10:32 GMT )

I've got to agree with Mephistro!

Just because you can't immediately take a new discovery and impart that knowledge onto a new device or technology to help someone does not make the attempt to discover it futile!

So much knowledge has come from experiments like these that haven't held any day to day meaning for generations. Charles Babbage designed the original 'computer' nearly a hundred years before it was viable, short-sighted people surely would have said the same to him - "Why bother?!" , "What use is this!?". Or the likes of Tesla whom demonstrated Wireless communications and power over 100 hundred years ago that now 'Wow' people at tech shows or through wireless charging pads for phones and vehicles.

Pioneering into the depth of science is what keeps innovation going, and no one can say that this will or will not have a benefit to the human race in 10, 15, 100, 1000 years time! - Just because we may not live to see that benefit does not mean the benefit should not be sought!

Who is to say that now we have proven the Higgs Boson / Field that (in the distant future) that knowledge can't be used to negate mass (?), allowing pollution to drop as haulage companies, air travel, and space travel could greatly reduce their mass - and hence weight on earth? - I realise that this may sound far-fetched but the point is you never know what research may yield - and I think it is massively short-sighted of people to criticise the funding that some scientific pursuits get.

As with any research there is only so much money that you can spend - diverting all the LHC funds to (for example) cancer research does not necessarily mean that cancer will be cured more quickly. By funding these projects who knows what world problems can be fixed in the future.

*Rant Over* ...I think.

C.

5
0

Obama / NASA?

How do you hijack THIS discussion to go THERE?

Haters gonna hate...

2
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Anonymous Coward

Re: Good lord...

"Not everyone is as petty minded as you, it seems. Celebrating a shared goal is not a lack of emotion, nor is jealousy the pinnacle of human greatness."

You misunderstand me.

Nowhere did I suggest that a shared goal shouldn't be celebrated. Nowhere did I suggest that jealousy is "the pinnacle of human greatness" - nor, indeed, anything at all, because I didn't mention jealousy at all.

First, being upset that you didn't have the opportunity to do something is not the same as begrudging it being done by someone else. Relying on baseless assumptions to conclude that I hold a negative belief, and then condemning me for having it, is unfair, to put it mildly. From your readers' perspective, you're clearly right - the belief is indeed terrible. It's just that I don't actually *have* that belief. This is similar to the logic which causes people to become angry when a defendant is acquitted.

Second, characterizing my support of someone being upset at being unable to complete a task as jealousy at all just flat out doesn't make sense. Again, you're whipping yourself into a fury over an opinion I don't hold. Continuing by jacking things up until I not only excuse jealousy but celebrate seems to have purpose only if your goal is to become as angry as possible; it's obviously untrue, and your wording has no suggestion of facetiousness.

**********************

And, most importantly:

Third, I would think it's fairly obvious that above all, the statement was politically tuned to bite at the bible-thumping, America-exceptionalizing, right wing, Fox-gobbling cock chompers who shut the thing down in the first place. If you want to trick a bunch of jingoists into supporting science, you do NOT do it by saying, "Oh well, the better men won, and it's really all about the science anyway!" This is what's known colloquially as being fucking stupid.

No. If you want to get the military-industrial types to throw money at you, tie it to the big, fat steak of American Exceptionalism. Make sure they can't oppose it without opposing America's God-given greatness, and hot damn, stopper the sink 'cos the cash faucets are gonna open up.

Read the statement for what it is. Yeah, I get it, it's an opportunity to hate on the United States. We done some bad shit. Oil, war, Fox news, terrorism, etc etc. Fine. I get it. But don't rag on some poor bastard who's trying to do his job, who values it, and who's playing the game as best he can to try to keep doing it.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

@David W.: Re: Good lord...

Your original post was a good one and got right to the heart of the matter.

0
0

Well that points to the decline of the US mre than nything. And the country that got to the Moon and ain't getting back there fast.

9
3
Anonymous Coward

You may be overstating your case somewhat. We do indeed seem to have sliced off our own balls in regard to science and engineering, I think that we do still exercise at least some smal influence in the world - the internet, facebook, apple, microsoft, obnoxious pop music, fast food, military tech, creepy-ass robots that stumble like dogs, video game production, ubiquitous movies good and terrible...

Good or ill, (and I'd like to thing on balance good if for nothing but the interwebs) we're not about to fade away just yet.

4
2
Bronze badge

Creepy robots

No, Japan and South Korea have cornered the market on creepy as hell robots leaving the US as a distant third in in that field, but ahead in the sector of robots that actually do useful stuff.

6
1
Silver badge

@Charles Norrie

"Well that points to the decline of the US more than anything. And the country that got to the Moon and ain't getting back there fast."

Just in case you don't know: there were civil rights activists protesting the amount of money spent on the space program while it was under way (and you can find pictures of protesters at mission launches if you want). And that was half a century ago: since that time, the financial claims on the government have increased enormously.

2
1
Silver badge
Terminator

Re: Creepy robots

Not sure about that... anthropomorphic robots that mimic human gestures and emotions might be mildly creepy, but flying robots that kill people really freak me out.

14
0
g e
Silver badge
Holmes

Change of direction

It's all about military industrial for now. They're still world leaders in varieties of methods of spying on people and killing them.

And really, how far would Texas have got without reading any LHC papers to narrow their search, anyway?

6
4

This post has been deleted by its author

Devil

Obnoxious pop music?

Last time I checked Justin Bieber and Celine Dion were Canadian.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: @Charles Norrie @Turtle

"... the financial claims on the government have increased enormously.". Hmmmm, well, yes. How many SSCs would the continuous military activity against people with funny-coloured skin and/or strange languages have paid for since the 1960s? That is one claim on the finances the USA could probably let go without anyone except the military-industrial complex shedding any tears.*

*If anyone has the balls to take on the military-industrial complex - something that I don't see happening. Look how quickly they got Obama into the fold.

1
0
Silver badge

"This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

Could have been. Yes.

Should have been. Why? Your costs spiralled, your politicians gave up. Now somebody else got the job done. Oh well...

37
0

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

Should have been, because we had the means and ability to do it, we had a good start on doing it, and we used to be the world leader in science and engineering.

2
13
Silver badge

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

"Re: 'This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America.' Should have been, because we had the means and ability to do it, we had a good start on doing it, and we used to be the world leader in science and engineering."

If this discovery leads to the "nightmare scenario" of discovery of the Higgs as confirmation of the Standard Model and no new physics beyond it, then it is not at all clear that this discovery is worth what it would have cost to build the Superconducting Supercollider. It is not impossible that we might *never* get beyond where we are now.

(And if anyone wants to say that negative results are still results, please, just... don't.)

0
18
Silver badge
Facepalm

Hang on…

Are you seriously claiming it would be better not to make important new discoveries, out of fear from running out of things to discover?! How does that even make sense??

…Anyway, we are not even close to running out.

26
0

Re: Hang on…

No, no. I think he's saying that there's a very good chance that a machine three times as powerful (and twice as costly) as the LHC would not be any more useful than the LHC, because a 3x increase in energy is nowhere nearly powerful enough to find anything beyond the Higgs boson. That's what the "nightmare scenario" is - not that we run out of things to discover, but that the next thing to discover just takes too much energy to be seen in any collider we can build. In this sense, it was better to build the LHC and drop the SSC, because they would obtain the same results anyway.

1
0

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

Could have been? Yes if America hadn't lost its way in underproducing and overspending.

Should have been? No. Not any more. You're just living in the past. The rest of the world has passed you out.

4
0
Bronze badge
Windows

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

Robert Caro wrote a book called The Power Broker about the man who built a fair chunk of New York. It is a loooooong book but I learned an awful lot about how power works in the USA. Mad decisions and waste. Not that different from the UK, but with some differences in the way Federal funds could be controlled by unelected people.

As an ex-physicist it appears obvious to me that we need to reach higher energies to find new resonances up the top end. The project that was cancelled would have given us a higher reach.

0
0
Boffin

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

It's not just the confirmation of the existence of the particle (which is important in itself) it's finding the exact energy values, identifying what Higgs decays into (and that has thrown up some unexpected results) etc. finding Higgs doesn't mean that we run out of new questions, it means we know what those next questions are, the next big thing is supersymmetry, it could lead into refining or even redefining the standard model, in the same way that Higgs allows the standard model to have mass, and complete's "a picture" we can now validly start looking to see how that picure is made up (maybe even start proposing ways to test [super]string theory, which would be a massive step forward as string theory currently is an untestable theory on unproven assumptions - we're starting to prove the assumptions).

So, when you say "It is not impossible that we might *never* get beyond where we are now." the grammar nazi in me wants you to say the slightly more honest "It is possible that we may *never* get beyond where we are now", but that will only be true if we forget how to ask new questions - and we're not there yet, not by a long chalk.

2
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

It doesn't matter. It's not secret, the papers are available; it's a world-accomplishment. So it really does not matter at all who discovered in.

But you'll be glad to here that as far as super-secret unshared technology for spying on people and killing them goes, you guys are still #1. You rock.

Does that help condole you?

5
1

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

"Should have been, because we had the means and ability to do it, we had a good start on doing it, and we used to be the world leader in science and engineering."

Without wishing to belittle Americans but "at one time" is the cry of every Nation on the wane. At one time the UK was the world leader in science and engineering, at one time the UK pretty much ruled the whole world (whether or not it wanted to be ruled, was legitimately ruled or gave a toss about what the British thought is for the purposes of this analogy irrelevant), at one time Rome was a badass place full of the most advanced military the world have ever seen.

Kingdoms and Empires rise and fall, they over reach, become “decadent” and then they cock it all up. Sad fact of life/history. It should not however belittle the stunning achievements of other groups. Besides, of the Physics boffins I know yes, they’d care personally if they were or were not involved, but the whole jingoistic “This Country (tm) discovered it” more or less passes them by.

You may have had the ability (or at least enough boffins) but you did not have the means, eg cash and commitment.

2
0
Boffin

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

Weinberg recalls a debate he had with a US Congressman on the Larry King show back in the day. "And he said he wasn't against science, he just thought we ought to set priorities," Weinberg reminisces. "And I said 'well that's fine, I agree with that. The super collider would help us learn the laws of nature. Doesn't that deserve a high priority?' And he said 'no'."

I tried searching to see who the congressman was but to no avail.

Perhaps the congressman thought that they didn't need a super collider to learn the laws of nature as they are already written down in the bible <insert name of religious book>

2
0
Silver badge

@Filippo: Re: Hang on…

Thank you for the help, but insofar as Ratfox's reading comprehension was not sufficient to enable to understand my post, it is not all that likely that his reading comprehension has sufficiently improved as to enable him to understand your post.

But thank you for attempting to help him, all the same!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

Out of curiosity, are you familiar with any of the current financial problems in the EU?

0
0
Silver badge

@keithpeter:Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

As noted above, it is not impossible that we might *never* have the technology to get to energy levels needed to go beyond current physics - because those physics might be at the Planck scale. A "higher reach" won't do it UNLESS IT IS HIGH ENOUGH - and it might *never* be high enough. The SCC would NOT have done it.

While the Superconducting Supercollider would have made the same discoveries as the LHC, it would not have discovered more than the LHC - and it would have cost several times the price.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "This is a discovery that could have been and should have been made in America."

"Perhaps the congressman thought that they didn't need a super collider to learn the laws of nature as they are already written down in the bible <insert name of religious book>"

Another stupid atheist!

Maybe he just didn't think that the project was more important than other programs competing for funding. And since the same the SCC would have made the same discoveries as the LHC but for a much higher price, the disadvantages of not having built the SCC are not really apparent.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Says it all about American attitudes...

...that they somehow feel they have the right to claim these kind of discoveries for themselves. They didn't want to pay for it. If that's the case someone else steps up to the mark. Too bad.

Why am I reminded of the cries of anguish that came when Pluto lost its planetary status? That came from America and nowhere else? The chief reason for all that particular fuss when you stripped everything away was "It means the US hasn't discovered a planet anymore." Nothing to do with the actual science at all.

16
3

Re: Says it all about American attitudes...

The weeping over Pluto sprang more from children thinking a Disney character had been killed off.

Semi-seriously though, this enters the realm where politicians are too dim to contemplate any tangible benefits. Same as now, except now it is several orders of stagnitude worse. Can't touch that sweet cash for national offense defense, though. That shit is sacrosanct.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: ... Pluto

Speaking as an ordinary bloke, I think the cries of anguish across the world were more about the seemingly arbitrary decision of a bunch of scientists to unnecessarily piss on the efforts of teachers over the decades to try to get children interested in space and Science in general.

One of the first things they learn is that there are planets and that there are nine of them and they get comfortable in their understanding of things. Then some idiots decide to get picky over definitions and suddenly there are only 8 planets.

If basic knowledge is subject to the whim of a committee, then don't be surprised if people turn away from science, and fail to mourn the loss of cool but expensive projects.

7
7
Stop

Re: ... Pluto

@ JustaKOS

No, I don't think that follows. This *is* science. Science constantly updates and changes our understanding of the universe - both in the big universe of planets and galaxies etc and in the small universe of Higgs-Bosons etc.

I can't see how *anyone* who is remotely interested in science who was taught at school that there were 9 planets would suddenly no longer have any interest in science because Pluto was reclassified and now there are 8 planets. That's a ridiculous argument. Why on earth would someone be disenchanted by that of all things? I was taught that there were 9 planets at school. I'm not crying in my beer and turning to creationism.

And from a scientific point of view, what should they have done? Left Pluto as a planet? What about Eris? It's bigger than Pluto and has a heliocentric orbit too, so if Pluto's a planet, so is Eris. So now we have 10 planets. Why wouldn't that shake the foundations of your imagined children and turn them from science?

And why are you making this a personal attack, describing the scientists tasked with this as "idiots"? I am sure that they could not accurately be described as such.

9
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: ... Pluto

Basic knowledge is not subject to the whim of a committee; our understanding of the solar system changes. In this case it was not some discovery about Pluto (OMG it isn't a planet after all) but a discovery that there were quite a few objects out there with just as strong (or weak) claim to be called planets.

So there were three choices

1) regard "planet" as meaning "things we used to call planets"

2) keep the existing notion of planet and accept that we have many more planets in our solar system

3) formalise the definition of planet causing there to be (one) fewer planets our solar system

Imagine if we'd found not just the Higgs but a brand new unexpected boson. Would it be sensible to change the definition of boson to "bosons we had discovered (or anticipated) up till 2012"?

5
0
Boffin

Re: ... Pluto

>>Then some idiots decide to get picky over definitions and suddenly there are only 8 planets

As you're speaking as an "ordinary bloke" you can be forgiven for not understanding the reasons, namely Pluto was a planet because we were vague on the defintion of what a planet was, once other objects were found which could fit with this vagueness (google the Xena/Eris debacle) a decision had to be made how to be more scientific on what was or was not a planet, the new defintion was clear and easy to apply, but Pluto doesn't meet this criteria, therefore not a planet. You might call them picky idiots, but now we know the difference between planets, Kuiper belt objects (of which there are thousands) and dwarf planets (of which Pluto is one), as new objects are discovered, we know what to call them.

It might be disturbing [for some] to "lose a planet" but if we didn't define things clearly we would be in the equally disturbing position of having new planets appear daily (or not as people argue over what is or is not a planet).

Don't sit back and complain that scientists redefine your childhood, look forward and realise that you're living in an amazing period of discovery.

3
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.