04 July 2012

More anticlimactic Higgs hype

Honestly, the whole "We think we may be close to finding the Higgs boson!" or "We had data that indicates we may have found it!" stuff is getting old.

What was announced today is not that the Higgs has been found. According to an article over on PBS,
ATLAS and CMS won’t find the Higgs itself, though; it disappears too quickly, decaying into other subatomic particles. It’s those particles that we’re looking for in the ATLAS and CMS data. Depending on the true mass of the Higgs boson, it could decay in several different ways. Seeing an excess of these decay products is an indication that we might have discovered the Higgs.
And that’s what we found! In the shrapnel of the LHC’s powerful collisions, the CMS experiment detected more pairs of photons and Z bosons than we can explain without some new kind of physics appearing.

Don't get me wrong, that's definitely exciting... well, in a massively nerd-tastic sort of way. But come on. Umpteen blogs and news outlets were following the conference at CERN today. Many a fellow geek on Facebook shared update after update. And the end result? A resounding maybe:
It is very important to stress that neither experiment team has claimed to have observed the Higgs boson. They have observed something without a doubt, but the Standard Model Higgs boson is a very specific thing. To be sure we’re seeing the Higgs boson and not a lookalike, we need to see it in all of the predicted decay modes.
Oh, so basically just another "we're getting closer!" announcement. Sigh. Just call me when they actually find the damn thing, alright? Geez.


In case this Higgs boson stuff is all Greek to you, Sean Carrol's live blogging of the seminar has some tidbits that nicely explain why it's a big deal in physics, and you can get a more complete explanation from this older entry at Cosmic Variance by John Conway.

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