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Wherefore art thou (probably), Higgs?
December 13, 2011 4:40 AM   Subscribe

CERN has begun webcasting a public seminar in which there may or may not be some announcement regarding the significance or otherwise of recent observations regarding the possible existence of something that might be the Higgs boson. I am not a nuclear physicist, so I will try and keep up but will mainly be trying to catch the significance of the observations they have collected so far. In case these are talked about in terms of sigmas (there's scuttlebutt going around that this is a 3.5 sigma event), here's a table of sigma and probability.

I love live science! Just in time for breakfast and coffee for me! Some recent previous Higgs here.
posted by carter (85 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
No sound for me yet :(
posted by carter at 4:43 AM on December 13, 2011


Sound is up now, they're testing levels.
posted by atrazine at 4:57 AM on December 13, 2011


Lots of people checking facebook on their laptops while waiting. If any of you are reading this thread right now: Hi!
posted by vanar sena at 4:59 AM on December 13, 2011


Seminar starting now.
posted by atrazine at 5:01 AM on December 13, 2011


Higgs Bosons for Everyone!
posted by ennui.bz at 5:05 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


HNNNGGGGHH Wherefore means why, damn it
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:07 AM on December 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Ooops.
posted by carter at 5:08 AM on December 13, 2011


Stream crashed for anybody else? Actually: whole webpage crashed for anybody else?
posted by penduluum at 5:10 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's so not loading for me.
posted by Jehan at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stream is very choppy for me. I assume that there's an order of magnitude more people watching than usually watch these seminar webcasts.
posted by atrazine at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2011


Probably overloaded. Don't suppose anyone knows of it being streamed on any other sites?
posted by Pilly at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2011


I'm having no luck. At some point someone is going to realise how many people are actually interested in this stuff, and we won't have to deal with this every single time.
posted by howfar at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2011


The stream is incredibly choppy. I can't help thinking that if they diverted some of the LHC power to feeding the webcast, we'd be able to watch it properly....
posted by daveje at 5:13 AM on December 13, 2011


Yeah... looks like CERN's been slashdotted. Any backup streams?

And "why art thou, Higgs?" might be just as interesting a question as "where art thou," so it's not such a bad title after all :)
posted by Westringia F. at 5:16 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I'm reading the slide properly, they're saying 95% confidence level at 114.4GeV.
posted by daveje at 5:17 AM on December 13, 2011


Here's a play by play from the Guardian.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:18 AM on December 13, 2011


And "why art thou, Higgs?" might be just as interesting a question as "where art thou," so it's not such a bad title after all :)

Yeah I was just about to say, if you want to get metaphysical then it's quite appropriate ;)
posted by carter at 5:18 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


That is straight-up Comic Sans. On the one hand, I'm present for what has a chance to be the most significant announcement in physics in my lifetime. On the other hand, I'm watching a Powerpoint presentation written in Comic Sans over the internet. Maybe the stream is getting disrupted by the overpowering energy of all the cognitive dissonance being directed at it from all over the world.
posted by penduluum at 5:18 AM on December 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


On the other hand, I'm watching a Powerpoint presentation written in Comic Sans over the internet.

Imagine, instead of just being physicists, they could be physicists with really sweet taste in typefaces.

Even in Switzerland, no-one really gives a fuck about Helvetica.
posted by atrazine at 5:21 AM on December 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


Here's a play by play from the Guardian.

They can't see the webcast either.
posted by atrazine at 5:22 AM on December 13, 2011


Could anyone who can see the webcast summarize for the rest of us?
posted by vacapinta at 5:23 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Streaming provided by: Groovy Gecko"

Maybe next time they'll use someone competent... This is impossible.
posted by knave at 5:23 AM on December 13, 2011


The Beeb says:
The most coveted prize in particle physics - the Higgs boson - may have been glimpsed, say researchers reporting at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva.

The particle is purported to be the means by which everything in the Universe obtains its mass.

Scientists say that two experiments at the LHC see hints of the Higgs at the same mass, fuelling huge excitement.

But the LHC does not yet have enough data to claim a discovery.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:25 AM on December 13, 2011



I can't help thinking that if they diverted some of the LHC power to feeding the webcast, we'd be able to watch it properly....

On the one hand, I'm present for what has a chance to be the most significant announcement in physics in my lifetime. On the other hand, I'm watching a Powerpoint presentation written in Comic Sans over the internet.

"Streaming provided by: Groovy Gecko"

Maybe next time they'll use someone competent... This is impossible.



I like to watch.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:26 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Westringia F.: " And "why art thou, Higgs?" might be just as interesting a question as "where art thou," so it's not such a bad title after all :)"

No, because in the (Romeo and Juliet) context, she's asking "why did you have to be a Montague". Hence the followup "Deny thy father and refuse thy name!" and later "What's in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet."
posted by Plutor at 5:27 AM on December 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


atrazine: "They can't see the webcast either."
Grar. The science needed to watch science is broken.
At least the comments are somewhat entertaining.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:29 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


(So the answer to "Wherefore art thou, Higgs?" would be "Because Peter Higgs was the most prominent of many who described broken symmetry in electroweak theory in the 1960s and predicted the existence of a new boson".)
posted by Plutor at 5:29 AM on December 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Oh let me be clear: I love everything about this. I just thought it was funny. And kind of endearing.
posted by penduluum at 5:30 AM on December 13, 2011


Yeah, this seminar might have been oversold a little. Anyone expecting this lady to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have found the Higgs Boson*" is likely to be disappointed.

* "Henceforth art thou, Higgs Boson"
posted by vanar sena at 5:30 AM on December 13, 2011


Its a lot of bad powerpoint slides up till now. Just now it is a peasoup green background with 6 pink and light blue boxes.
posted by stuartmm at 5:30 AM on December 13, 2011


126 GeV.
posted by carter at 5:36 AM on December 13, 2011


Wow. Possibly one of the greatest scientific discoveries is being communicated by a scientist holding a clip-on mic to her mouth, showing the worst, most eye-bleedingly horrific presentation ever, broadcast over a video stream I get to see/hear 40% of.

At least the flying sky-god people can communicate their messages.
posted by i_cola at 5:42 AM on December 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is the green smiley face a standard in scientific presentations these days?
posted by i_cola at 5:46 AM on December 13, 2011


Needs moar luminosity.
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:46 AM on December 13, 2011


So have they found Hoggs' bison or not? I thought we were having barbecue!
posted by howfar at 5:46 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


2.3 sigma.
posted by carter at 5:47 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


95% CL between 115.5-131GeV, excess events at 126GeV, local significance 3.6sigma.
posted by daveje at 5:47 AM on December 13, 2011


Of course we'll have to wait until these results are reproduced by a few other large hadron colliders before it's proper science.
posted by Segundus at 5:48 AM on December 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


Excess of events at 126 GeV. 115.5-131 GeV is the 95% confidence limit, according to her conclusions. Too early to draw conclusions, need more experiments and data.
posted by hariya at 5:48 AM on December 13, 2011


Last Slide
posted by stuartmm at 5:48 AM on December 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Was just trying to type that up for the thread, stuartmm. Thanks for doing it much more efficiently!
posted by penduluum at 5:50 AM on December 13, 2011


so was i, then just grabbed the image. No questions to presenters till after this next presentation.
posted by stuartmm at 5:52 AM on December 13, 2011


Layperson question: I read that last slide to mean "we haven't found the Higgs boson yet, but we've narrowed it down (assuming it exists at all) to this range that just so happens to have a bunch of weird physics stuff going on in the middle of it." Is that accurate?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:03 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


So there was no one in the balloon after all?!?
posted by Edogy at 6:09 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's never comic sans in scifi films is it?
posted by pmcp at 6:13 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It was a choppy feed but I also grabbed some of the first prezo and put it in a Flickr set here.
posted by carter at 6:14 AM on December 13, 2011


Metafilter: needs more data
posted by blue_beetle at 6:16 AM on December 13, 2011


Sounds like it could be out late next year! I'll be refreshing Amazon all day to pre-order one at the earliest opportunity.
posted by ignignokt at 6:20 AM on December 13, 2011


So if there's some Heisenbergian superposition where the Higgs boson both exists and doesn't exist, and we keep trying hard to pin down exactly which of these is the case, isn't there a 50/50 possibility that we'll cause the wave function to collapse to the state where the H-b definitely *doesn't* exist, thereby destroying the universe as we know it? This is only sort of a joke, actually.
posted by aught at 6:21 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there enough data for the TV news to report enough misinformation so my mom will call me up and tell me scientists have found evidence of God?
posted by bondcliff at 6:24 AM on December 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


SCIENCE.
posted by flippant at 6:26 AM on December 13, 2011


So if there's some Heisenbergian superposition where the Higgs boson both exists and doesn't exist, and we keep trying hard to pin down exactly which of these is the case, isn't there a 50/50 possibility that we'll cause the wave function to collapse to the state where the H-b definitely *doesn't* exist, thereby destroying the universe as we know it? This is only sort of a joke, actually.

Surely there's a world (heh) of difference between a particular Higgs boson being in a particular spot and Higgs bosons in general being in this particular universe.
posted by lumensimus at 6:29 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wake me when we get a 5-6 sigma, thanks.
posted by symbioid at 6:35 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


[Heh, I was just trying to bring it back to physics (though what I love about metafilter is that of course there be a Shakespeare derail in an experimental high energy thread!), but you're right, Plutor.... In which case "wherefore art thou, god particle?" is what I really want to know. When did it go from being the Higgs boson to the "god particle" in the popular press, anyway??]
posted by Westringia F. at 6:37 AM on December 13, 2011


Apparently Leon Lederman wanted to call it "that god-damned particle" ...
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 6:40 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


When did it go from being the Higgs boson to the "god particle" in the popular press, anyway??

It wasn't even Lederman's choice. "He wanted to refer to it as that 'goddamn particle' and his editor wouldn't let him," says Higgs.

-The Guardian
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:40 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The best layman way to think about this is that the two detectors have excluded huge swaths of Higgs mass now, and both see an excess of events in the non-excluded window. The details of the events are not especially channel-dependent, meaning that the different ways that the Higgs should be able to decay are all observed, which hints that it isn't a result of bad background estimation, which would be generally be channel-dependent. More data is needed, just as everyone expected, but the current hints are tantalizing. Moreover, the teams are showing off how much they do understand about their detectors, which will make future analysis all the much easier as the femtobarns stream in next year.
posted by Schismatic at 6:51 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now we can all have our very own higgs Boson!
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:59 AM on December 13, 2011


Well, at least we know this.
posted by ignignokt at 7:01 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wake me when we get a 5-6 sigma, thanks.
posted by symbioid


I know a couple of Six Sigma black belts who never shut the fuck up about it, I could always bring them over.
posted by COBRA! at 7:05 AM on December 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


MOAR FEMTOBARNS! And don't spare the horses!
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:13 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sooooo...... the stripper is dancing but hasn't got his/her kit off?
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:16 AM on December 13, 2011


Whoops, I meant inverse femtobarns, of course. Best unit in all of physics.
posted by Schismatic at 7:34 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've always wanted to sit on a riverbank and watch the inverse femtobarns stream in.
posted by oulipian at 7:37 AM on December 13, 2011


So if there's some Heisenbergian superposition where the Higgs boson both exists and doesn't exist, and we keep trying hard to pin down exactly which of these is the case, isn't there a 50/50 possibility that we'll cause the wave function to collapse to the state where the H-b definitely *doesn't* exist, thereby destroying the universe as we know it? This is only sort of a joke, actually.

Well there was that guy who proved that black is white and then got himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

(So if I ever find set who cardinality is strictly greater than Aleph-0 and strictly less than the continuum, do numbers cease to exist?)
posted by kmz at 7:40 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


1.26 giga-watts. I mean, uh, 126 giga-electronvolts.
posted by cirrostratus at 7:48 AM on December 13, 2011


You know, I may not be making discoveries that alter our understanding of the universe, but at least I can console myself with the fact that I don't use Comic Sans.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:50 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wake me when we get a 5-6 sigma, thanks.

If you're not doing anything until then, I've got a couch I could use some help moving.

I'm actually not sure how it got stuck here in this hallway in the first place ...
posted by Honorable John at 7:59 AM on December 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's never comic sans in scifi films is it?

Well, after today it will be.
posted by never used baby shoes at 8:09 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


All this trouble to find some guy's bozon. Couldn't he have just put up some flyers?

Keeping exotic pets is unconscionable, guy just couldn't be satisfied with a dog or a cat or a really sweet lizard. He just had to have a bozon.

Bozons are not pets people.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:27 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Couldn't he have just put up some flyers?

He did. They were in Comic Sans. Didn't you see them attached to all the magnetic poles?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:40 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


magnets. how do they fucking work?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 8:56 AM on December 13, 2011


Wow. Comic Sans. Thanks for the last slide screengrab, stuartmm... Honestly, I was half expecting to see Rick Astley's grinning face at the bottom of the slide.

Basically,
● Outlook good
● Signs point to yes
● Reply hazy, try again
● Ask again later.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:57 AM on December 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Would the CERN presentation been better if it had looked like this?
posted by KHAAAN! at 10:19 AM on December 13, 2011


The best layman way to think about this...

Not hating on your explanation, which I'm sure is at least an order of magnitude or so simpler than what the scientists are saying, but wow. If that explanation is 'layman's terms' then I shudder to think about the actual math/technical terms behind what's going on in there.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:26 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK; this is kind of a sad truth about science: Scientists love Comic Sans. In general, the more technically complex and esoteric the work, the more likely it is to be presented in Comic Sans. I think people like it because it makes otherwise intimidating material seem "friendly".

But yeah, it's all over the place.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


On the other hand, I'm watching a Powerpoint presentation written in Comic Sans over the internet.

Imagine, instead of just being physicists, they could be physicists with really sweet taste in typefaces.


For physicists of this magnitude, shouldn't those slides be in LaTeX?
posted by maryr at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would the CERN presentation been better if it had looked like this?

God, no, the kerning is awful.
posted by Copronymus at 10:37 AM on December 13, 2011


KHAAAN!: "Would the CERN presentation been better if it had looked like this?"

No, like this!
posted by Plutor at 11:00 AM on December 13, 2011


Both ATLAS and CMS have their brief reports online now. The physics blogs have started coming in, so there's a lot more discussion than was out there than there was earlier:

-Cosmic Variance has a simple description of what happened.
-Matt Strassler addresses a number of more technical points.
-A lot of plots and a very unofficial combination of the two detectors' results by Philip Gibbs.
-Another short description at Résonaances, which is typically one of the better rumor-mongers out there.
-A more credulous than average take by experimentalist Tommaso Dorigo.
posted by Schismatic at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Whoops, I meant - for better or worse,
femtobarns which are expressed in verse.
In all of physics, the best unit found
For unemployed eggheads to expound.


Schismatic, forgive me.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


GENEVA (Reuters) - "We don't call it the 'God particle', it's just the media that do that," a senior U.S. scientist politely told an interviewer on a major European radio station on Tuesday.

"Well, I am the from the media and I'm going to continue calling it that," said the journalist - and continued to do so.

posted by finite at 2:00 PM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fully support the media in their endeavor to dilute the concept of divinity.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:01 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The God Particle...it's so beautiful*...they should have sent a poet graphic designer.

*Possibly.
posted by Dr. Zira at 8:30 PM on December 13, 2011


OK; this is kind of a sad truth about science: Scientists love Comic Sans.

Yes, this is absolutely true! Plenty of warning signs with skulls and bones and explanatory text in Comic Sans.
posted by springload at 12:22 PM on December 14, 2011


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