God particle may be within our grasp
Rumours of Higgs sightings precede latest results seminar
Physicists working on the Large Hadron Collider will be announcing their latest batch of results at a seminar next week.
It’s only been a day since CERN announced the seminar at which the ATLAS and CMS experiments would present the status of their search for the elusive God particle, but the blogosphere is already alight with rumours that the Higgs boson is in sight.
The press statement is careful to manage expectations about what will be discussed at the seminar:
These results will be based on the analysis of considerably more data than those presented at the summer conferences, sufficient to make significant progress in the search for the Higgs boson, but not enough to make any conclusive statement on the existence or non-existence of the Higgs.
But this has only seemed to fuel the rumours that the boffins have indeed had sight of the particle, just not enough to be “conclusive”.
The results over the summer excluded certain mass ranges for the Higgs boson – from 155 to 190 GeV and between 295 and 450 GeV – and at that point ATLAS was seeing excess particles between 120 and 145 GeV, while the CMS detector was putting them between 120 and 180 GeV.
However, the two experiments are only seeing the particles at 2.5 to 3.5 sigma (the measure of statistical certainty).
At 2.5 sigma, there is a 1 per cent chance that the results are a fluke, and at 3.8 sigma, that chance drops to 0.01 per cent.
This could mean that CERN is ready to announce that they have spotted evidence of the particle, but they wouldn’t say they had ‘discovered’ it at this level of uncertainty.
Which certainly sounds like the “significant progress” CERN could be talking about, but rumour-mongers and boffins alike will have to wait until next week to find out for sure. ®