It may turn out that Teh Physics is polytheistic

I dislike the term “god particle” but I could not resist the play on words … as researchers at Fermilab suggest that there may be five different versions of the Higgs boson, not just one. This would require, apparently, some rewriting of the Standard Model.

Here’s the story in non-technical terms, and thus, somewhat butchered (but if you’re reading my blog for particle physics, you’re kinda asking for it anyway). Matter and it’s constituent parts may or may not have a certain kind and degree of symmetry. One theory as to why there is only “matter” and not “anti-matter” in the universe is because of asymmetry, but the kind and amount of asymmetry previously measured didn’t seem to be enough to explain this matter-antimatter thing.

New research at a project called DZero has seemingly uncovered some additional asymmetry not previously expected. If confirmed, this may require some re-writing of the Standard Model (the physics model that explains everything except certain things … like, embarrassingly, gravity).

One possible change in the model would result in how we think of the Higgs Boson …. the thingie that gives other thingies mass, and the holy grail (as it were) of the Large Hadron Collider Project. This change could mean that there are multiple different versions of the Higgs.

… the data points to five Higgs bosons with similar masses but different electric charges.

Three would have a neutral charge and one each would have a negative and positive electric charge. This is known as the two-Higgs doublet model.

… the two-Higgs doublet could explain the results seen by the DZero team while keeping much of the Standard Model intact.

“In models with an extra Higgs doublet, it’s easy to have large new physics effects like this DZero result,” he explained.

“What’s difficult is to have those large effects without damaging anything else that we have already measured.”

Dr Martin explained that there were other possible interpretations for the DZero result.

You can read the story at the BBC web site, and see the press release here.

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4 thoughts on “It may turn out that Teh Physics is polytheistic

  1. Don’t believe everything you read! News stories like this come about as an interesting interplay between the psychology of three groups of people:
    a) Experimental physicists. Who, while striving for accuracy, at the same time want desperately to find something new and different.
    b) Theoretical physicists. Who each have their own pet theory to nurse, and pounce on any new result as support for it.
    c) Science reporters. Who, in an attempt to write an attention-grabbing story, drop the ‘coulds’ and ‘maybes’ and try to extract startling sound bites from (a) and (b).

    Meanwhile, the DZero project mentioned above has published updated results, in which the announced effect has basically gone away.

  2. @ BillK – are you saying that the results reported here aren’t true because of more recent results?

    I get the frusteration with science reporting – but at some point we have to simplify (just not oversimplify). I’m trying to learn about all this boson stuff and I’m overwhelmed with the seeming contradictions in the data.

    Could you provide a DOI or ref for the new data? I’m curious!

  3. Peter Woit links to the new results at
    The SM violation was never more than 3 sigma, and in the new results is only at 0.8 sigma. Particle physics typically requires 5 sigma confidence to conclude anything, because inference statistics cannot easily account for the way physicists search through data collected by colliders.

  4. Bill, Wyman, this is, of course, totally fucked and very much in line with what often happens in physics.

    Here’s how it often goes:

    1) Physicists report new results in standard outlet (a press release on the press release page of the major research institution that discovered the results).

    2) Reporters and bloggers note the new finding.

    3) Physicists pass around obscure PDF file changing or abrogating the results.

    4) Physicists or their friends yell at press and bloggers for not knowing about new results, even though the same original stream of information (press page of major research institution where the original results AND new results were originally obtained) is silent on the matter.

    5) Bloggers get mad and accuse the physicists of sucking at public relations and getting good information out there. (That’s where we are at this very second, should that not be obvious.)

    6) Physicists spew and fume for a while at the bloggers, make repeated claims that the information certainly WAS put out there in a way that interested parties not on some secret mailing list would find it (even though it was not). (see below?)

    7) Press and bloggers grow uninterested in the science and reporting thereof because the impact of the new find is less important than the cost of dealing with a bad information system run by geeks.

    8) Physicists shut up because it turns out that on further inspection they really can’t prove that the information was “out there.”

    Normally I would just say “thanks for the link” (and I do mean that … thanks for the link!) but I feel it is more important to point out th is gaping flaw in the system.

    It could also just be that I’m in a crappy mood this morning. Feel free to tell me what I’ve got wrong here.

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