The Saga Continues: Following up on the Higgs

I’m going to do what I wish every reporter working in sensationalism (Are there any that aren’t?) would do. I’m going to follow up on a previous story.

As you know from a previous post, the story of the Higgs boson is a soap opera. The saga continues with a delightful twist, a turn of the plot any self-respecting TV writer would be envious of.

Previously on Desperately Seeking the Higgs, the LHC appeared to be a shoe-in as winner in the search for the God particle. Fermilab had failed in its last ditch attempt to find the boson. But the old smasher still has a trick up its sleeve. According to the latest issue of New Scientist, it’s making a play to overthrow the current standard model of particle physics.

You’ll remember the standard model describes three forces acting on subatomic particles: electromagnetic, weak, and strong. According to the wikipedia entry, the electromagnetic force is responsible for just about everything since it “is the force that causes the interaction between electrically charged particles.” That’s a lot to be responsible for. Then there’s the strong force. It acts on the nucleus to make sure it doesn’t fly apart. Finally the weak force is involved in radioactive decay processes. We’re comfortable with these forces, we understand them, we like them.

But Fermilab might just turn all that on its head. If they can’t find the Higgs, they say, they’ll just mootify it. How are they going to do that? Well, apparently they’ve got an unexplained bump in their data (see graphic above). And that bump might be due to an entirely new and heretofore unknown force that will give mass to all particles known to mankind, quarks included. Recall that that was supposed to be the job of the mighty Higgs. This new force precludes the need for a Higgs. It won’t exist. Game over.

Is this a conspiracy? Perhaps. Consider this: if we stick with the standard model, the deadline for Fermilab to pull a rabbit out of the hat is September of this year. That’s when the lab is scheduled for decommissioning. It has to discover the Higgs by then or concede victory to LHC. Of course the LHC would still have to discover the Higgs for it to win. That’s not a foregone conclusion. If the LHC doesn’t find a Higgs either, the competition will end in a draw. That will be the best Batavia can hope for if September rolls around and no bunny.

But if it can turn this standard model on its head, why, then it will be the winner. It will go down in a glorious finish. So this new force, this bump in the data, is Fermilab’s last best chance for the particle physics equivalent of Olympic gold.

This seat edge action doesn’t get better than this. As you well know, often with science reporting today’s sensational news that has the potential to turn the entire world on its head, or maybe just tilt the axis the other way, is yesterday’s misinterpretation of the data. So, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

This is definitely more exciting than the fodder you get on the real soaps. There the best you can hope for is Chloe showing up to discuss Daniel’s motives or Kevin wanting to do something with the baby.

Stay tuned!

Sue Lange
Find more of Sue Lange’s breathless prose at her BVC bookshelf.




The Saga Continues: Following up on the Higgs — 2 Comments

  1. One of the wonderful things about your report are the names of so many of the players. “The boson” sounds like a word grabbed by someone trying to overawe people who don’t understand a thing about science. An elaborate shell game an SF writer would create for a character to use in an emergency. I can see Miles Vorkosigan pull this one out of his right pocket!

  2. Well, I know a lot about science and I’m still awed by the word “boson.” Look it up every time and forget what it is every time.