“We don’t know if its a Higgs boson” – yet Theorists rush to claim new physics ground

“There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.” – Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi (1)

Gold Rush Prospectors

Gold Rush Prospectors

Q: What’s the difference between a religious fanatic and an extreme science “enthusiast” ?

A: I’m beginning to wonder.

Neither seems to understand that there are boundaries to science.

In the late 1840s there was a Gold Rush to get to California to claim your fortune; to merely dig your millions right out of the ground.

Well, the difference between theory and practice is a lot bigger in practice than it is in theory. Thousands found nothing but fruitless hard work and literally lost their shirts.

I’m seeing an analogous “Higgs Rush” – the current mad dash to publish a “theory” (they are really at best only hypotheses) before anyone else does – no matter how disconnected it may be to bedrock physics.

Its exciting to have a new particle show up, but its not a Higgs yet.

Yet even though the head of one of the CERN “Higgs” experiments has said clearly

“We don’t know if its a Higgs boson.” (Joe Incandela, CERN CMS Experiment Leader)

now articles are showing up wholly based on the false assumption that a Higgs particle has been established !

Hugs Bison

Hugs Bison

“Before we try to explain something, we should be sure it actually happened.” –Ray Hyman

Here’s one “What if we could split the Higgs boson?

Maybe false media headlines are responsible “Celebrations as Higgs boson is finally discovered

What ever happened to responsibility and physical reality in physics ?

Sure its exciting to have a new particle show up, but really ?

Further reading:

The Higgs boson, uncertainty, and the scientific method

Here’s the entire passage from Mark Twain

“In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year.

Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod.

And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen.

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

– Life on the Mississippi

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3 Responses to “We don’t know if its a Higgs boson” – yet Theorists rush to claim new physics ground

  1. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says:

    The articles mirrors the science effort itself, as the work shifts from elucidating that it is a new boson, evidently everything but spin 0 or 2 has been excluded, to what other properties it has. Indeed the details of these properties, say the decay channels, don’t measure up to the same 5 sigma observation that enables the particle detection. But it certainly is a Higgs boson detection as the correct decay channels establish 5 sigma with the observation (in CMS), if not yet tested whether it is a standard Higgs. [Disclaimer: not a particle physicist, but cosmology interest me so I’ve looked some on this.]

    At the same time the theorists are moving from putting up theories to have them excluded.

    Presumably everyone knows it isn’t “an assumption” which science doesn’t do, but a likely constraint and a basis for new research and media strategies. In any case these articles are, as insufficiently constrained research, yet open to change whether the author’s know it or not.

    • David says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      How can anyone (especially right after admitting they are not a particle physics expert) make the claim

      “it certainly is a Higgs boson detection as the correct decay channels establish 5 sigma with the observation (in CMS)”

      When that directly contradicts the head of CERN’s CMS Higgs experiment (Joe Incandela, CERN CMS Experiment Leader)?

      Mr. Incandela said perfectly clearly —

      “We don’t know if its a Higgs boson.”

      When you contradict the de-facto expert on his own experiment, shouldn’t you provide additional facts or more insightful rationale ?

  2. Danny says:

    Hello David,
    Interesting Thoughts,

    What is the fundamental element of existence?

    How was the universe created?

    These are the ultimate questions for scientists to uncover. Centuries of study and billions of dollars have been spent in attempts to understand these basic, yet complex, questions of life. Many theories have been presented, including one in the 1960s by physicist Peter Higgs and a team of scientists. In their search to understand how particles get their mass, they developed a theory that the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that no one has ever even seen, is the key to understanding how the universe works.
    Kindest Regards

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