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back to article Is the Higgs boson an imposter?

A group of Argonne National Laboratory researchers has suggested that last week’s CERN data, fanfared to the world as the discovery of the elusive Higgs-Boson, might actually point to even more exotic creatures. Their Arxiv-posted paper suggests that CERN’s data could have identified either “a generic Higgs doublet” or a “ …

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Who could have imagined?

"combination of mass and extremely fast decay", I'm so happy to learn that my dating life fits the standard model.

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End of physics?

“There is nothing more to be discovered in physics now, all that remains is more and more precise measurements" - Lord Kelvin, 1900

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Anonymous Coward

Re: End of physics?

Every time the known knowns increment, the known unknowns multiply. I think we're a long way from the end of Physics.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: End of physics?

The end of physics will coincide with the discovery of the universe particle (aka the big bang particle).

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@Neoc -- Re: End of physics?

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@Neoc -- Re: End of physics?

Right! Lord Kelvin's arrogance (ignorance?) was outstanding! Can you ever imagine James Clerk Maxwell or say Rudolf Clausius (of thermodynamics fame) ever saying this? Not bloody likely!

When Lord Kelvin made this comment there was still no consensus about how the sun got its energy, various calculations had a ball of 'coal' the size of the sun not even lasting the distance from the Bible's creation time of 6000 years ago. (Thus, for some, the long forthcoming 'blackout' must have been a worry.) By 1900, with geology and palaeontology suggesting the sun had been shining on the planet for orders of magnitude longer, you'd think Lord Kelvin would have remained mum when such an outstanding gap remained in the knowledge of physics.

Updated: “There is nothing more to be discovered in the Standard Model now we've found the Higgs, all that remains is more and more precise measurements."

Seems to me, we've hardly begun this quest. Like Lord Kelvin, at the moment there's a lot of 'profound' statements around about the Higgs issue which have not yet been demonstrated to have a good experimental basis let alone to have solid scientific foundations (through a full exposé of the Dalton Scientific Method and pass it with flying colours etc.). Moreover, speculation seems even more absurd given the long and vexing schism that remains between Einstein's Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. GUT still seems a long way off; and even when it arrives, it'd still be absurd to assume we'd be able to tick all the boxes.

No doubt, Higgs theory and experiments will contribute to GUT and other knowledge. However, even when GUT is settled it'd still be a very brave man who'd confidently echo Lord Kelvin's words. Both history and science have shown all too often there's always another 'atomic physics' just over the horizon.

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Re: End of physics?

That statement has always puzzled me. Kelvin knew that 19th century physics did not have a theory of atomic structure and surely realised that what little they did know (mostly just that electrons existed) pointed to a structure that would have been catastrophically unstable. Indeed, 1900 is 4 years after the discovery of radioactivity by Becquerel. He ought also to have heard of Poincare's 1890 paper demonstrating that the n-body problem was chaotic and unsolvable. Perhaps he took that to be an "end" of sorts but if so then his idea of finished certainly doesn't match modern thinking.

But he (*) wasn't an idiot. So why is his statement so obviously absurd, even allowing for hindsight?

(* Obviously anyone suggesting today that the Higgs is "the end of physics" is beneath contempt. I'm not aware of anyone in the field making such remarks, just as I'm not aware of them using the term "God particle". I do wish the newspapers would stop lying about this. It only encourages gormless critics declaring that "this statement proves that all scientists are liars and my god is true".)

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Re: End of physics?

Wikipedia suggests that people have looked for the original source of this quotable nugget and failed to find it. Perhaps the most likely explanation, then, is the well-known phenomenon whereby a good quote is eventually put into the mouth of a notable personage. Oscar Wilde is not known for his science, so someone else had to be found and Kelvin (being the most decorated Victorian scientist) was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Watch your step, Professor Higgs, or you may find yourself with some idiot's words in your mouth.

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Happy

Re: End of physics?

Physics is Dead. Long live Physics!

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Re: End of physics?

Wikipedia (I know . . .) lists the Kelvin quote as disputed:

Although reportedly from an address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1900), the quote is only duplicated without citation to any primary source in various books, including Superstring : A theory of everything? (1988) by Paul Davies and Julian Brown; also in Rebuilding the Matrix : Science and Faith in the 21st Century (2003) by Denis Alexander. To be more credible, a source prior to the 1980s and close to 1900 is needed.

Confusion may be due to Michelson who made a similar quote whilst mentioning Lord Kelvin: In 1894, Albert A. Michelson remarked that in physics there were no more fundamental discoveries to be made. Quoting Lord Kelvin, he continued, “An eminent physicist remarked that the future truths of physical science are to be looked for in the sixth place of decimals"

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Re: End of physics?

Couldn't agree more. Regarding the God Particle, The World in 2030" by Dr. Michio Kaku, a lecture he gave as the actual explenation for where that crappy name came from. Look at minute 58+ or so. It shows how ignorance is rife in some political circles.

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If you go back to the actual announcements, you will find that they worded things very carefully and specifically mentioned that their discovery could be one of many different higgs particles. The discovery was merely that they did find something where they were looking, and now they are on to the part where they try and figure out what that something is exactly.

Also, mass and fast decay were not the only issues that had to be overcome. The particles that the Higgs can decay into are some of the most common decay products. This is why the LHC had to be designed to run continuously, and smash incredibly large amounts of material ( well, for a particle accelerator ) together. They needed incredibly massive numbers of collisions to spot the incredibly tiny variation in the amount of decay products.

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jai
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i though the whole point was that they'd demonstrated a sigma-5 level of probability that it was the HiggsBosun.

the probability of it being something else exists, but surely it's far less that sigma-5 level, so therefore unscientific to make such a claim.

this sounds like a bunch of scientists shouting "me too!!!!" and trying to get on the HiggsBosun press band wagon

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"was that they'd demonstrated a sigma-5 level of probability"

that the signal wasn't just 'noise'

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Yes, you boy

MAN THE QUANTUM YARD ARM

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Boffin

"this sounds like a bunch of scientists shouting "me too!!!!" and trying to get on the HiggsBosun press band wagon"

That's funny, because to me this sounds like good science being done by good scientists.

Institute 1 (CERN) performs an experiment and makes a conditional claim of success to their original hypothesis; Institutes 2+ (everyone else) take that same data and propose possible alternatives to the original conclusions, normally adding some confirmation/skepticism around the original claim.

This is real science in action, even if the media find it boring because there is almost never (especially at this level of physics) a "oh, definitely" response from scientists.

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Holmes

Nah...

Expect a flurry of these papers in the next weeks and months trying to explain / fit-in / morph the Higgs into String Theory / Minimal Suppersymmetry / Some Idea that May Be True Or Not. Theorists are gonna theorize and experimentalists are gonna think hard about how to find the exact properties of this new particle.

Indeed, the idea that "The Higgs" is actually a "condensate" of two top quarks glues by a new force (similar to what happens with electrons in Cooper pairs, I think) is not new.

> It’s only a few days since some writers were proclaiming the “end of physics”.

Mommy! There are retards in my morning paper!

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Re: Nah... - Cooper Pairs

I thought the thing about Cooper pairs of electrons was that they were bound in a minimum energy configuration and so could not give up energy to the structure of the material through which they were travelling?

It may be that this is a macro-explanation of the quantum forces that bind them, in which case we need somebody else to chip in and clarify for us......

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Re: Nah...

"Expect a flurry of these papers in the next weeks and months trying to explain"

Yep. Expect large numbers of physicists to pour over the data to test whether it can be explained using other theories. In some way or another, there may be many theories which can fit the data. Some will be more plausible than others, but it is necessary to compare with as many current theories as possible, as well as to examine it from a clean slate to attempt to construct additional theories, to determine if any alternatives are likely to be correct.

Just because they have discovered a Higgs-like particle does not necessarily mean it is the Higgs Boson. It may be that there is evidence to disprove the entire SM in there, or to allow some genius to find an alternative which turns out to be correct. We don't yet know. The CERN announcement is quite dull, really. The examination of the data may yet reveal something exciting.

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Anonymous Coward

The God particle ...

could only be created in God's own country - Texas, USA

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Thumb Down

Re: The God particle ...

Texas is not a country.

And don't even get me started on the other bullshit in your statement...

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Boffin

Don't be so sure, «Goldmember» (you're kidding, right ?),

given that back in 2009, 48 % of Republicans in Texas would favour succession from the United States, according to a Research 2000 poll published in the Washington Post (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/thefix/republican-party/secession-divides-texas-republ.html)....

Henri

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't be so sure, «Goldmember» (you're kidding, right ?),

"Texas would favour succession from the United States,"

???!!!

secede is the verb, whether seceding is what you were groping for ...

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Re: The God particle ...

.... or Yorkshire.

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Joke

Re: The God particle ...

"God's own country - Texas, USA"

I congratulate you on your achievement sir!

With those few short words you have succeeded where so many others have failed miserably over so many years.

You sir, have managed to offend almost the entire population of Yorkshire!

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Re: Don't be so sure, «Goldmember» (you're kidding, right ?),

I wonder if it is like Scottish independence: an idea more popular *outside* the region than inside?

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Re: The God particle ...

I always thought it was quite easy to offend the entire population of Yorkshire. All you have to do is be from outside Yorkshire.

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Trollface

Texas is not a country.

I must be, it has an embassy near Trafalgar Square which sells burgers..

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Angel

Re: The God particle ...

The other bullshit being that God's Own Country is Yorkshire

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The God particle ...

Since the guy who came up with the nickname wanted to call it 'The Goddamn Particle' (Leon Lederman), but his publisher wouldn't let him use it in his book, I think you're a bit wide of the mark.

Besides God's country (county ?) is Yorkshire, isn't it :)

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Re: The God particle ...

Obvious troll is obvious.

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Trollface

Re: The God particle ...

Well since there is some evidence for it, I don't see how it could be related to God...

/Troll

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@mhenriday Re: Don't be so sure, «Goldmember» (you're kidding, right ?),

"(you're kidding, right ?)"

Yes. Goldmember is a nickname of mine, as my surname contains the word 'gold'. It all started around the time of a certain Autin Powers movie... can't think why :o)

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Re: The God particle ...

That's not hard to do. You just have to ask them to open their wallets.

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Re: The God particle ...

Not the best troll I've seen, but what the hell, I'll give you an upvote.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't be so sure, «Goldmember» (you're kidding, right ?),

From what I hear about Texas they really might mean "SUCcession"...

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Re: The God particle ...

Where I come from, Texas is a small border town.

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Mushroom

So in other words, it's not a Higgs Boson, it's a Hacked Boson.

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Facepalm

Boson to Boojum?

Higgs Boojum?

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,

In the midst of his laughter and glee,

He had softly and suddenly vanished away -- -

For the Boson was a Boojum, you see.

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Joke

Observer effect?

Any observation of the fundamental laws of physics changes them.

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Coat

Re: Observer effect?

Precisely. Whenever we find out what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly be replaced by something even more bizarrely inexplicable.

Evidently, this has already happened

Mine is the one with cassettes of the original radio plays in the pocket. Douglas Adams, we miss you

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Re: Observer effect?

"Mine is the one with cassettes of the original radio plays..."

Sadly, although I heard them all when first broadcast I don't have copies although I did record the more recent series. I esp. miss Peter Jones as the original voice of the guide.

Great, great idea and wonderful execution - all the time events have resonances with HHGG.

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Re: Observer effect?

There is a rather good 13 CD box set available from somewhere or another, received it as a gift myself a few years back, seen me through many a long car journey.

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Facepalm

Who said it was the end of physics?

There's still no accepted unified theory of gravitation and QM. Nobody thinks finding the Higgs is the end of physics, except maybe Dave down the pub.

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Coat

Higgs Boson could in fact not be the smallest particle but made of doublet or triplet impostors

Therefore we can conclude that the Higgs Boson particle is made of my pay rises over the last 2-3 years put together.

Icon is me rummaging round in coat pocket for loose change.

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Facepalm

End of physics indeed...

That´s a bit like suggesting the end of chemistry after you think you found all the elements.

Surely, that´s where the actual fun starts, when you know all the bits you can play with, no?

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Anonymous Coward

It's the end of the world as we know it

And I feel fine.

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Coat

Fools, all of them!

It's not the Higgs boson, it's merely Tom Cruise coming out of the closet!

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A Higgs boson went to church

A Higgs boson went to church and the priest said, "Get out, you are not welcome here"

The boson replied, "I am going nowhere. Without me there is no mass"

Its the way I tell 'em.

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Mushroom

I guess the experiment is like looking at the result of a car crash then trying to work out what the driver had for lunch.

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Pint

What he had for lunch

is easier to figure out after the crash than before. Most of particle physics is actually based on that: make them crash to figure out what they had for lunch. It works surprisingly well (and to be honest there is no real alternative: subatomic particles don't speak intelligible English so you can't just ask them. Anyone having visited Inveraray -or Fredericksburg, for that matter- feels the pain of particle physisists).

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