Just a quick note here on something that isn’t really mine: CMS has now released some video footage from the internal meetings where the results of the search for a Higgs particle decaying to a pair of photons (light) were first presented to the collaboration. I think it’s pretty interesting to watch this little bit of science history.
Here is the context: the Higgs searches were done “blind”, in that every little bit of the analysis was done without examining the actual detector data sample where the Higgs might be observed. Using simulations and data samples that are similar to, but not actually, the data in question are used to design the Higgs search, to understand what the experimental uncertainties are, and to give an expectation of what would be seen in the data if there were a Higgs (or not). Everyone avoids looking at the key data samples to avoid biasing the search based on what is seen. (The fear is that if you see a small signal, you might start to make changes in the analysis to enhance the signal…which could turn out to be a statistical fluctuation in the end.)
Then, in the late stages of the data analysis, we finally take a look at the “signal” sample. Of course, someone has to be the first person to do this, which means that for a brief moment, that’s the only person in the world who knows a new scientific fact. And then there is a lot of suspense for everyone else! In the video, someone who was among the first to see the result, just hours beforehand, is presenting it to the rest of the collaboration. You can certainly see how excited the presenters are about that moment.
I suppose there isn’t any suspense now, since we know what the answer is, but try to put yourself in the mindset of the audience in the room…and enjoy!