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Physics Community Afire With Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery
06-20-2012, 04:13 PM,
#1
Physics Community Afire With Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery
Physics Community Afire With Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery
By Adam Mann
June 20, 2012

(Wikipedia for Higgs Boson)

One of the biggest debuts in the science world could happen in a matter of weeks: The Higgs boson may finally, really have been discovered.

Ever since tantalizing hints of the Higgs turned up in December at the Large Hadron Collider, scientists there have been busily analyzing the results of their energetic particle collisions to further refine their search.

“The bottom line though is now clear: There’s something there which looks like a Higgs is supposed to look,” wrote mathematician Peter Woit on his blog, Not Even Wrong. According to Woit, there are rumors of new data that would be the most compelling evidence yet for the long-sought Higgs.

The possible news has a number of physics bloggers speculating that LHC scientists will announce the discovery of the Higgs during the International Conference on High Energy Physics, which takes place in Melbourne, Australia, July 4 to 11.

The new buzz is just the latest in the Higgs search drama. In December, rumors circulated regarding hints of the Higgs around 125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), roughly 125 times the mass of a proton. While those rumors eventually turned out to be true, the hard data only amounted to what scientists call a 3-sigma signal, meaning that there is a 0.13 percent probability that the events happened by chance. This is the level at which particle physicists will only say they have “evidence” for a particle.

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.”

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. As physicist Philip Gibbs points out on his blog, Vixra log, if each experiment is seeing a 4-sigma signal, then this is almost definitely the long-sought particle. Combining the two 4-sigma results should be enough to clear that 5-sigma hurdle.

Of course, Gibbs reminds us that the rumors come with some caveats, such as the fact that they are vague and not completely reliable. Scientists outside the experiment also don’t yet know how much data has been analyzed from this year, meaning that the rumored results could disappear with further scrutiny.

The Higgs boson is the final piece of the Standard Model — a framework developed in the late 20th century that describes the interactions of all known subatomic particles and forces. The Standard Model contains many other particles — such as quarks and W bosons — each of which has been found in the last four decades using enormous particle colliders, but the Higgs remains to be found. The Higgs boson is critical to the Standard Model, because interacting with the Higgs is what gives all the other particles their mass. Not finding it would severely undermine our current understanding of the universe.

While discovery of the Higgs would be a remarkable achievement, many researchers are also eager to hear the details from the experiments, which may indicate that the Higgs boson has slightly different properties than those theoretically predicted. Any deviations from theory could suggest the existence of heretofore-unknown physics beyond the Standard Model, including models such as supersymmetry, which posits a heavier partner to all known particles.
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06-20-2012, 10:01 PM,
#2
RE: Physics Community Afire With Rumors of Higgs Boson Discovery
It's possible that the Standard Model may not be entirely accurate, if results from the recent BaBar experiment at Stanford are sufficiently and independently replicated:

Quote:Particle Physics: BaBar Data Hint at Cracks in the Standard Model

ScienceDaily (June 18, 2012) — Recently analyzed data from the BaBar experiment may suggest possible flaws in the Standard Model of particle physics, the reigning description of how the universe works on subatomic scales. The data from BaBar, a high-energy physics experiment based at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, show that a particular type of particle decay called "B to D-star-tau-nu" happens more often than the Standard Model says it should.

In this type of decay, a particle called the B-bar meson decays into a D meson, an antineutrino and a tau lepton. While the level of certainty of the excess (3.4 sigma in statistical language) is not enough to claim a break from the Standard Model, the results are a potential sign of something amiss and are likely to impact existing theories, including those attempting to deduce the properties of Higgs bosons.

"The excess over the Standard Model prediction is exciting," said BaBar spokesperson Michael Roney, professor at the University of Victoria in Canada. The results are significantly more sensitive than previously published studies of these decays, said Roney. "But before we can claim an actual discovery, other experiments have to replicate it and rule out the possibility this isn't just an unlikely statistical fluctuation."

The BaBar experiment, which collected particle collision data from 1999 to 2008, was designed to explore various mysteries of particle physics, including why the universe contains matter, but no antimatter. The collaboration's data helped confirm a matter-antimatter theory for which two researchers won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Researchers continue to apply BaBar data to a variety of questions in particle physics. The data, for instance, has raised more questions about Higgs bosons, which arise from the mechanism thought to give fundamental particles their mass. Higgs bosons are predicted to interact more strongly with heavier particles -- such as the B mesons, D mesons and tau leptons in the BaBar study -- than with lighter ones, but the Higgs posited by the Standard Model can't be involved in this decay.

"If the excess decays shown are confirmed, it will be exciting to figure out what is causing it," said BaBar physics coordinator Abner Soffer, associate professor at Tel Aviv University. Other theories involving new physics are waiting in the wings, but the BaBar results already rule out one important model called the "Two Higgs Doublet Model."

"We hope our results will stimulate theoretical discussion about just what the data are telling us about new physics," added Soffer.

The researchers also hope their colleagues in the Belle collaboration, which studies the same types of particle collisions, see something similar, said Roney. "If they do, the combined significance could be compelling enough to suggest how we can finally move beyond the Standard Model."

The results have been presented at the 10th annual Flavor Physics and Charge-Parity Violation Conference in Hefei, China, and submitted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters. The paper is available on arXiv in preprint form.

This work is supported by DOE and NSF (USA), STFC (United Kingdom), NSERC (Canada), CEA and CNRS-IN2P3 (France), BMBF and DFG (Germany), INFN (Italy), FOM (The Netherlands), NFR (Norway), MES (Russia), and MICIIN (Spain), as well as support from Israel and India. Individuals have received funding from the Marie Curie EIF (European Union) and the A.P. Sloan Foundation (USA).
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