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Michael Schmitt | USLHC | USA

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Whoa — slow down!

Everyone is excited about the prospect of settling the question of the Higgs boson – does it exist, or doesn’t it?

Of course, we are talking about the Standard Model Higgs Bosons. Higgs bosons in other models such as Supersymmetry have different properties (decay modes & production cross sections) so the negative results of searches from CMS and ATLAS do not necessarily pertain to them. (And keep in mind that no theorist accepts the Standard Model as correct, so focussing exclusively on the SM Higgs boson seems not very wise…)

That said, why do we – the particle physics community – set a deadline of the “end of the year” for coming up with a definitive statement about the Higgs boson? Hopes of finding it have been alive for decades, so surely we do not have to rush through the last months and weeks of the analysis of brand new data. The gravity of the Higgs question requires that no mistakes be made, and that the results of the analyses are definitive. We shouldn’t skip any cross checks or leave auxiliary methods out of the game plan in the interest of getting an answer faster.

If today there is any particle physics analysis that requires the highest standards of our field, then this crucial and fundamental test of the Standard Model (even as a mere effective theory) is it.

My hope is that our eagerness and excitement to have the answer to the Higgs question is tempered by our desire to get the right answer, one that will not require revision a few months after we have communicated our conclusions to the world…

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5 Responses to “Whoa — slow down!”

  1. Particle Prof says:

    Amen to that. A rush to publish quickly is an extremely common cause of wrong results. There is no need for it.

  2. Michael Schmitt says:

    Right! And while no one wants to publish a wrong result, even for a minor topic, the intense public focus on the Higgs question means that the ramifications for a wrong analysis are much, much higher.

  3. I am betting my research farm against the Higgs. Should I wait for 5 sigma over the entire range, or is 95% (1 in 20) good enough to take my wife to a fancy French restaurant in town? The hard part of the range is in the low GeV region because so many other things can happen, bumping the background levels up by a factor of a million. I’ll take the misses out if the 95% confidence level is reached, but send you a “No Stinkin’ Higgs” t-shirt only at 5 sigma. And if the Higgs is found, no more blogging/pontificating for me.

    Doug Sweetser

  4. fluidic says:

    Yes, quite correct! no need to rush and repent. However, for how long we are going to wait, over and above what particle physicists waited, and how BIG of a HIGG price we still have to pay and for how long? Real question is: where do we draw the line in the sand? not in the water! “where” refers to what experimental evidence do we still need to make or break the higgs dilemma over and above data we already have?

    If the chances to find a higgs is (1:zillion), and if say a higgs appears once every 3-5 yrs of experimentation, this may not suggest there is higgs at all, but would rather suggest that nature may produce a higgs qualifying particle under certain surrounding situations, but that does not imply the higgs particle we NEED to base our theory solidly on.

    fluidic

  5. Alexis says:

    Hi
    When captain Kirk calls his superior boss on the earth and his 100 light years from the earth. Will he wait endless on his answer? There are rays that humans did not discover yet. Good luck with searching 

    Alexis

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