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CERN experiments observe particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson (cern.ch)
234 points by sdiwakar on July 4, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

What stood out to me from watching the presentation was the incredible integrity of the physicists involved. The CMS group had 2 sets of data with > 5 sigma significance, but chose to also show weaker data that actually reduced the significance slightly. Consider the enormous effort spent to show that the result was not some background fluke - two separate detectors, running 2 completely different means of detection, each with their own sets of computer programs verifying the results. Finally both show almost exactly the same result (although the masses are slightly different at this point)!

Given that tevatron also sees similar (although weaker) results, the confirmation is beyond doubt. And what an achievement - the first fundamental particle observed since the quarks in the 1980's! An incredible victory for theoretical models developed almost 50 years ago (no wonder Peter Higgs had tears in this eyes)!

Combining the brilliance of the theoreticians with the integrity of experimentalists is what makes science the pinnacle of human achievement (IMO), and makes me proud to be human today.

> So, chose to also show weaker data that actually reduced the significance slightly

Well, they are not trying to convince anyone here. They are trying to prove something. So, choosing to hide that data would've been dumb, as the two possible outcomes would have equally interesting I think: proving that the Higgs Boson does exists, or proving that it doesn't.

Beyond that, yeah, it's a good day today for science :) !!!

> Well, they are not trying to convince anyone here. They are trying to prove something.

A nobel prize is at stake! If ATLAS only had the results and not CMS, they would have lost the nobel. For them to put aside personal glory for science is impressive.

Even without the question of ATLAS vs. CMS, awarding a Nobel Prize for this will be rather challenging. At most three people can share it according to the rules, and there were literally hundreds of scientists involved in this discovery.

This is probably yet another argument in favor of the claim that Nobel Prize in its current form is antiquated and not matching the reality of modern science (especially particle physics).

"At most three people can share it according to the rules"

This is wrong. It's just conventional, nothing in Nobel's will mentions this.

The language of Nobel's will (as translated into English on the official site of the Nobel Foundation):

"The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way: the capital, invested in safe securities by my executors, shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses. The prize for physics and chemistry shall be awarded by the Swedish Academy of Sciences; that for physiological or medical works by Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm; that for literature by the Academy in Stockholm; and that for champions of peace by a committee of five persons to be elected by the Norwegian Storting. It is my express wish that in awarding the prizes no consideration whatever shall be given to the nationality of the candidates, but that the most worthy shall receive the prize, whether he be a Scandinavian or not."

After a settlement with Nobel's family, the foundation was set up with these rules:

"a) that the statutes, common to the prize-awarding institutions, dealing with the manner of, and the conditions for, the award of prizes as prescribed in the will, shall be drawn up in consultation with a representative nominated by Robert Nobel's family and submitted to the approval of the Crown; and

b) that there shall be no departure from the following main principles, viz: that each of the annual prizes established by the will shall be awarded at least during each five-year period from, and including, the year immediately following that in which the Nobel Foundation commences its activities, and that the amount of a prize thus awarded shall under no circumstances be less than sixty percent of that portion of the annual yield of the fund that shall be available for the prize award, nor shall it be divided into more than three prizes at most."


From the statutes of the Nobel Foundation:

"A prize amount may be equally divided between two works, each of which is considered to merit a prize. If a work that is being rewarded has been produced by two or three persons, the prize shall be awarded to them jointly. In no case may a prize amount be divided between more than three persons."


So just like I said, the will doesn't mention the three person limit, only the statutes.

Hm. True enough. Let's not forget that this is one of those results that will be under great scrutiny, of course. Not because the results are controversial - far from it - but because they're so important. Committing fraud with these results would be academical suicide.

It's unlikely they would get the prize if their results weren't verified.

> Well, they are not trying to convince anyone here. They are trying to prove something.

And that's the impressive part. Finding this out cost circa $10 billion. To get that dough, they had to convince a lot of politicians (and hundreds of millions of taxpayers) that this was worth it.

To the general public, a clear result is much more satisfying than, "Well, gosh, the data is ambiguous; we need another $10 billion to get some solid answers." It takes a lot of integrity to go to the lengths they did. I salute them!

They had to convince those politicians that this is worth studying. Not to convince them about the results, that could have been any of the two possible shakespearean outcomes: to exist or not to exist...

I agree that politicians shouldn't care about dramatic results. But I still think they do.

> the first fundamental particle observed since the quarks in the 1980's

A minor correction -- the tau neutrino wasn't discovered until 2000.


This is a great comment: "Think about it this way. Let’s say you’re at the target range, and the Lone Ranger is shooting at clay pidgins right nearby. Obviously you’ll want to know if he’s shooting silver bullets, right? But you can’t look at them while they’re still tied up in the gun. You can’t look at them after they’ve hit the pidgin. And they’re traveling too fast to study while they’re in flight. The only way you can see if they’re silver bullets is based on how the pidgin gets blown to pieces."

"The Higgs boson has a very short lifetime outside of other subatomic particles. The only way for us to study them is to smash those particles together and see the results of the decay. Based on how the Higgs decays (blows itself to pieces), we can infer its existence."

It's even harder than that, because it turns out full metal jackets will cause the pigeons to blow apart into the same pieces, so it's not just the pieces, but things like the direction and velocity of those pieces.

It's cute that ATLAS spokesperson says 126 and CMS spokesperson says 125. Then CERN says 125-126.

Can someone please dummify this result a little bit? what does this mean for particle physics in the future? does it confirm any theories?

Here's a pretty good Q&A that talks about this: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/particle-consistent-with-...

I'm going to summarize this based on my limited understanding, and hopefully someone can confirm or deny.

This is important because it confirmed the accuracy of the way we conceptualize the structure of the universe.

That means both the people who start and fund projects know that the basis of modern physics is sound. So the time and money won't be wasted by a surprise "nope, Higgs-boson isn't there" in the middle of a project based on the belief that it is.

Yup, this was the last particle predicted by the Standard Model. In addition to not having any evidence that it existed, we also didn't know exactly how massive it was, or how likely it was to show up in high-energy collisions.

Unfortunately, the Standard Model still doesn't have a good explanation for how quantum mechanics and gravity work together, so we know it's not complete. But at least the particle menagerie seems to be full :)

Can someone please explain to me what would the immediate technological advancement be if this is true?, what applications would this have? (Already watched the video and read the FAQ, still a lot that is not clear to me)

This has been covered a lot, but in short: this is basic science that will have far-reaching implications in the long term. It gives us a greater understanding of the universe, and confirms a hypothesis that heretofore had no direct evidence.

The immediate short term won't see any technological advancement, but as with all basic science we will see outcomes in the future.

Science is in fact not engineering.

Thanks for your response, I understand science is not engineering I was just not sure if I was missing some other immediate implications. The more you know.

My science-fiction addled brain can't help but be taken to things like anti-gravity when we start talking about understanding the particle the causes mass. If we could alter the field, we could make things much less massive, making Michael J Fox's hover board that much closer to a reality.

Of course, this is baseless conjecture and, even if true someday, will be nothing like immediate. However, without understanding the field, we won't be able to affect the field (we may never be able to affect the field when we do understand it).

Immediate probably none, but we now know that the Standard Model is not wrong with regards to the Higgs, and the Standard Model is the basis of all kinds of real-world calculations.

None in the foreseeable future.


Really interesting article: so we're basically back to studying the Aether, right? Or did I get that wrong? The only cause of mass is the particles moving through a vast pervasive invisible field?

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that we need to be more careful about rejecting theories that simply sound like that of the luminiferous aether on the surface.

FYI aethers can be explained mathematically nowadays.

See: http://www.quora.com/Physics/Besides-maturity-of-model-what-...

The link isn't bad.

(the comment oddly doesn't follow my comment??)

This is probably the best headline for this that I've seen on a news aggregation site.

So, will we get more understanding about the shape of the universe?


Can we now conclude what'll happen if we go right to the edge of the universe with speed of light? Without any further debates?

There is no such thing as 'edge of the universe'


Nope, it comes down to the generally agreed definition of the universe: the universe contains everything. If you want a border, there's the observable universe (everything in our past light cone).

Did you not follow the wikipedia link above?

Amazing, I wonder what this means for creationists and more importantly - our understanding of our universe?

Why should it mean anything special for creationists?

God either created the Higgs or he didn't. This science illuminates God. That's all.

It's not an argument for or against creationism.

(Although if you believe God created the world, then just say it. There is nothing wrong with believing that. But don't hide behind a psudo-science like creationism.)

> Why should it mean anything special for creationists?

I guess maybe this is a misconception based on the media having come up with the stupid label of "the God particle"?

Leon Lederman, an experimental physicist, was the one who first used the term god particle as the title for his book. There are many things to vilify the science media for, but this is not one of them.

He wanted to name the book "The Goddamn Particle" initially -- as a reference to its elusiveness -- but the publisher wore him down.

Given that this is science, it doesn't mean anything to creationists.

On the contrary, some creationists make great efforts to engage science on it's own terms, with hilarious results: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/C-decay

what? This actually exists as a theory? Now I'm a believer. This got me laughing "in order to be useful for validating an age of the universe less than 10,000 years rather than more than 10 billion years".

A teacher tried to teach me that particular hypothesis in high school. It subsequently became much harder for me to be a scientifically inclined person in a religious school. Bad memories.

Nothing at this stage.

From what I've gathered this is so expected result that nothing really changes, right now atleast. It'll take a while until something new will come out of this.

As an example this could be summarized like someone showing that P!=NP, it would be totally expected and nothing would really change.

p.s P!=NP would be a bigger result though, the comparison was just for something that is overwhelmingly expected.

I don't mean any offense, since the question itself is valid, so I'll offer one of my own: Why does it matter what creationists make of it?

In high school I had a fellow student that was ortodox. So, he believed that the Bible should be taken as a literal story.

So, when I asked him if he believed in Dinosaurs, he said that some fossils were from before the Great Flood, and that those animals where the beasts that died a few thousand years ago.

When I asked him about Carbon-14, and that those fossils were dated millions of years ago, his answer was simple: Two options, those experiments are wrong, or is God testing our faith.

This could be God testing our faith again for them, so... nothing will change.

> ortodox

Did you mean fundamentalist? Orthodox is something totally different.

Is this question a result of the name "God particle" confusing people again? In that case, it is just a stupid name that science journalist, not scientist, decided to go with. It doesn't mean anything at all, and Higg's boson has nothing to do with god.

As I noted above, the media did not come up with the god particle reference.

The anti-creationists have become a religion unto themselves, complete with persecutions and indulgences.

"I'm about fifty-fifty on believing in God" - Steve Jobs

This is true only if creationists' bullshit is as valid as our reality.

So, no.

Hawking bet $100 that the Higgs Boson didn't exist. Does that make him a quack? If one or more creationists believes the earth was created in 6000 years, does that make all creationists quacks? Where's the scientific method in that?

just for the record and to please the prospective downvoting mob, here are my experimental observations consistent with the cern experimental domain in order to warn any non-westerners:

"The cost [...] has been evaluated, taking into account realistic labor prices in different countries. The total cost is X (with a western equivalent value of Y) [where Y>X]

source: LHCb calorimeters : Technical Design Report

ISBN: 9290831693 http://cdsweb.cern.ch/record/494264

about integrity:


FYI: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Spin_(public_...

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