Higgs Hedge: CERN Announces Definite Maybe

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CERN Seminar on Higgs Findings – July 4, 2012. Image courtesy of CERN.

Caution is the Watchword

We have observed a new particle consistent with a Higgs boson,” CERN director general Rolf Heuer said at the seminar. CERN’S reported 5 sigma signal means there is a probability of less than one in a million that the data is a statistical fluke. So why the hedging? Is it the Higgs or isn’t it?

Last February, we were told by CERN that its faster-than-light neutrinos OPERA experiment was suspect — due to a faulty optical fiber and a problem GPS timing oscillator.  In light of this embarrassment, CERN’s extra-careful approach is understandable.

And, per Columbia University physicist Michael Tuts, further analysis is necessary.

Determination as to exactly what particles the Higgs transforms into will help tell whether “the particle they have discovered is the one predicted from theory or something more exotic,” Tuts told National Geographic. “Is it being produced at the rate that a standard model Higgs would predict? That’s the work that’s going to go on over the course of this year at least.”

I suspect CERN physicists are bursting to tell the world “we found the Higgs!” But they (and we) will just have to wait.

Stay tuned.

Sources:

Geneva Press Release. CERN experiments observe particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson. (2012). Accessed July 4, 2012.

Wickham, C., Evans, R. “it’s a boson:” Higgs quest bears new particle. (2012). Reuters. Accessed July 4, 2012.

Than, K. “God Particle” Found? “Historic Milestone” From Higgs Boson Hunters.  (2012). National Geographic News. Accessed July 4, 2012.

Dacey, J. Doubts grow over superluminal-neutrino result. (2012). Physicsworld. Accessed July 4, 2012.

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