Physics

Rumors of imminent Higgs boson announcement run amok on science blogs. Discovery might be announced next week

The Higgs boson or the God particle, as it’s also been commonly referred to, is a hypothetical particle that endows other elementary particles with mass. Confirming its existence is of crucial importance to physicists at the moment, otherwise scientists would be forced to rethink another method of imputing mass to particles.  Last year, scientists at CERN registered a hint; a tiny hint of the Higgs boson, when Atlas and CMS, two experimental teams at the Geneva particle accelerator facility, interdependently registered unusual bumps in their data. In December, rumors had it that the elementary particle would soon be unveiled, only to warrant an official statement from Geneva that results are still far from conclusive.

The most elaborate ‘manhunt’ in history

A computer graphic shows a typical Higgs boson candidate event, including two high-energy photons. (C) CERN

Recently, a new wave of enthusiasm has sparked science blogs to speculate that we’re in for an imminent announcement from CERN that will once and far all decide if indeed this hypothetical particle exists or not. “The bottom line though is now clear: there’s something there which looks like a Higgs is supposed to look,” wrote Peter Woit, a mathematician and  Columbia professor. “If this years peaks are not exactly in the same place as last years then the combined significance could be considerably less,” reads a skeptical entry at the Vixra blogTomasso Dorigo, an experimental particle physicist, settled to offer his own take on the probability of such a find. These are just a few of the myriad of impressions currently circulating around the God particle.

These was sparked after a team of physicists gathered in a room at CERN on Friday to begin crunching new data from the Large Hadron Collider this year. They’ll be at it for a whole week. The new results should settle whether last year’s anomaly was indeed a simple fluke, or the scientists are on the right path; if so this would mark only the beginning of an even larger road ahead for the CERN researchers. Nevertheless, in all likelihood, these results will be made public at the International Conference on High Energy Physics, or Ichep, in Melbourne, Australia, starting July 4.

“Please do not believe the blogs,” Fabiola Gianotti, the spokeswoman for the team known as Atlas.

Personally, I’ve well went past getting too excited over simple rumors – only cold and officially released facts should matter at this time; it will keep you sane too.

How to find the Higgs boson

Dr. Higgs first theorized that if particles were to be hit hard enough, by the right amount of energy, its own quantum particle would be produced. With this goal in mind, the Large Hadron Collider accelerates protons to energies of four trillion electron volts around a 17-mile underground racetrack at CERN, before colliding them together.  The Atlas group hypothesized the Higgs boson’s mass at 124 billion electron volts, while the CMS group came up with 126 billion electron volts – a proton weighs in at one billion electron volts and an electron at half a million electron volts.

How can the scientists be certain that they’ve found Higgs boson? Well, it all lies in probability. To be certain, scientists need to find a 5 sigma signal in at least one channel of one experiment.  Wired‘s Adam Mann explains, “In the rigorous world of high-energy physics, researchers wait to see a 5-sigma signal, which has only a 0.000028 percent probability of happening by chance, before claiming a ‘discovery,'” or or one chance in 3.5 million that it is a fluke background fluctuation. Adding, “The latest Higgs rumors suggest nearly-there 4-sigma signals are turning up at both of the two separate LHC experiments that are hunting for the particle.”

This week, the BaBar experiment, which has ran for a decade at US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, found hints of flaws in the Standard Model of Physics, after data revealed  certain particle decay happening at a pace far exceeding predictions. The excess decays has to be still confirmed, but they claim that data already rules out the Two Higgs Doublet Model.

Next month’s International Conference on High Energy Physics might host the announcement of the century for particle physics or the Higgs boson final resting place. We’re patiently waiting.

Interview with Professor Higgs, who explains what it will mean to him if scientists at CERN confirm the existence of the Higgs boson.

via New York Times

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  • Rodney Bartlett

    I began
    by writing the following email to America’s Discover magazine (it was
    about an article of theirs concerning Julian Barbour). Unintentionally, my
    email started talking about a subject which fascinates me – the Higgs
    boson/field (I’ve been thinking about this for years, and I spent hours
    deciding on the best words to use in a short email). I used Albert Einstein’s
    theories to come to the conclusion that what we call the Higgs is our name for
    ALL particles (not simply this one or that one) being composed of quantum
    mechanical “wave packets” formed by the union of gravitons and
    photons – the notion of the Higgs actually being all particles implies that its
    possible discovery by the Large Hadron Collider would be another experimental
    verification of the existence of quantum entanglement in time and space and on
    Earth. In turn, gravitons and photons – along with all time and space – are
    composed of electronic binary digits (this may be termed the Higgs field).* I
    suspect this idea of binary digits composing space-time is highly unfashionable
    in the present worldview of quantum fluctuation. Also, people believe in
    strictly linear time where effects do not influence causes, but the “binary
    digits” idea requires a looping subroutine where electronics from the future is
    transmitted nearly 15 billion years into the past in order to create the
    subuniverse we currently inhabit (on a separate note, I believe we live in an
    infinite universe made up of subuniverses shaped like figure-8 Klein bottles that
    are made flexible enough to seamlessly – except for wormholes – fit into each
    other by their construction from binary digits). Dark matter could be explained
    as matter travelling from future to past, or past to future, which is invisible
    but still has gravitational effects. Dark energy could be explained as gravity
    or space-time (i.e. the product of binary digits) being programmed to
    accelerate and expand (I prefer to regard acceleration/expansion being the
    result of more space-time continually being created, which is what the Big
    Bang’s rival – Steady State theory – proposes). Anyway, the unfashionableness
    of my ideas does not automatically make them wrong.

     

    * The University of Edinburgh scientist Peter
    Higgs pointed out that the Higgs field would produce its own quantum
    particle (the Higgs boson) if hit hard enough, by the right amount of energy.
    The Higgs field is the name given to the unification of space-time by the binary
    digits creating it. Therefore, the Higgs boson would necessarily indicate this
    unification and “…its possible discovery by the Large Hadron Collider
    would be another experimental verification of the existence of quantum
    entanglement in time and space and on Earth.” Why does data from the LHC “… see tantalising hints consistent with making Higgs bosons
    with a mass of around 125 times as heavy as the proton?” (http://www.ph.ed.ac.uk/higgs/laypersons-guide)
    I don’t know why there are hints at this specific mass. I can only suggest that
    we use quantum physics’ wave-particle duality and think of all the subatomic
    particles in the universe – and throughout all time – as a beam of light from a
    torch. If the circle of light cast by the torch represents all subatomic particles,
    then the centre of that circle (which is its brightest part) represents the
    masses’ energy of 125 billion electron volts (125 times as heavy as a proton).

     

    Here’s
    the email I sent to Discover –

     

    I’d like
    to comment on the article “Is Einstein’s Greatest Work All Wrong—Because
    He Didn’t Go Far Enough?” by Zeeya Merali (March 2012 issue).

     

    “Long
    before Einstein, (Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst) Mach had advocated a ‘truly
    relative’ theory, in which objects were positioned only in relation to other
    tangible objects—Earth relative to sun, pub relative to farmhouse—and not
    against any abstract background grid.” (“Is Einstein’s Greatest Work …”)

    This
    makes sense as long as we assume that space-time is an unverifiable abstract
    grid and matter, such as objects, is the only component of reality.

     

    “When
    forced to summarize the general theory of relativity in one sentence, Einstein
    said: time and space and gravitation have no separate existence from
    matter.” – PHYSICS: ALBERT EINSTEIN’S THEORY OF RELATIVITY at
    http://www.spaceandmotion.com

    Einstein’s
    thinking claims that space-time is as much a part of reality as matter is, and
    his thinking can potentially be verified by the Large Hadron Collider. This is
    because the Higgs boson/field sought by the LHC could turn out to be a
    non-Standard-Model Higgs where subatomic particles are composed of quantum
    mechanical “wave packets” formed by the union of gravitation’s
    gravitons. To give matter a different appearance from gravity, this union could
    include electromagnetism’s photons. The amplitude of gravity waves might taper
    from a central point to the sides while the amplitude of electromagnetic waves
    remains constant – in which case electromagnetism would be modified gravitation
    and Einstein would have been correct when he said gravitation and
    electromagnetism may be related. 

     

    Since the
    great physicist claimed gravitation is the warping of space-time, time and
    space would have no separate existence from matter and would be the ultimate
    composition of the non-Standard-Model Higgs particle. Continuing from
    Einstein’s deductions, space-time cannot simply be an abstract background but
    must be composed of something, or else it could not give rise to the matter we
    see, touch, and probe with instruments. But that something also gives rise to
    immaterial space, time, and gravity. What could be the source of things we see,
    and also of things we do not see? Why not the electronic binary digits of 1 and
    0? After all, we can view a webpage but can never view its ultimate composition.

     

    So Julian
    Barbour’s approach is only good for people who only believe in what they can
    see. Albert Einstein’s approach is the one to follow if we ever hope to achieve
    a Unified Field Theory or Theory of Everything which has meaning in physics, as
    opposed to purely in mathematics. A mathematically defined unified field could
    be accurate and detailed, but it would only be relevant to mathematicians and
    would therefore be somewhat abstract. A physical unified field would be
    relevant to everybody, enabling us to understand and manipulate both what we
    can and can’t see in the universe.