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Monday, 25 April 2011 18:34

Did ATLAS shrug? Has the Higgs Boson been spotted?


Based on a leaked note, rumours are flying that the ATLAS detector at the LHC has detected the Higgs Boson.  Experts are sceptical.

A mystery posting to the comments section of Peter Woit's blog Not Even Wrong has opened up a major can of worms in the particle physics community.

The posting displays a 'note,' which in the industry is a memo or comment intended for internal discussion, not public release.  However, setting the controversy to one side, the note outlines some interesting results which (if true) both assist to confirm the "standard model" of particle physics and also to give it problems.

The Higgs Boson is a theorised very heavy atomic particle, the detection of which was one of the major reasons for which the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider was built.  Previous research at other facilities had demonstrated a bottom limit of 114 GeV for the mass of the Higgs (that's because they were unable to work at any higher energies and were unable to find it).  Interestingly, many theorists have suggested that 115GeV was a likely place to find it.

The information provided from the leaked note suggests that the Higgs was indeed discovered at 115 GeV.  However, the boson was produced at 30 times the rate expected by the theory behind the discovery.

Many experts are highly sceptical of the discovery and in fact one expert (Tommaso Dorigo) in the field has offered a $1000 bet with any other competent physicist in the field that the results will turn out to be false.

Similarly, "Jester's" blog also addresses problems with the result, pointing out that the data actually seems to show a peak at 120GeV, Commenters to both blogs have also reflected upon the fact that one of the principal researchers in the project had previously staked a large part of their career on finding the Higgs at 115GeV.

As much as a wonderful drama in (possibly) finding this much searched-for particle, this whole saga is offering an intriguing glimpse behind the scenes of leading-edge research and the personalities to be found there.

iTWire strongly suggests that interested readers read all the linked articles and follow the comments to those articles.  This is a very interesting saga.


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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