Another Higgs rumor reminds us how science is correctly done

Apr 25, 2011 by Lisa Zyga weblog
The Atlas detector at the LHC at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Image credit: LHC.

( -- With the Large Hadron Collidor (LHC) running smoothly for well over a year now, the excitement surrounding the possibility for the discovery of new physics has generated a few rumors - speculations that have not been published in peer-reviewed journals. The latest came last week, when an anonymous person posted the abstract of a note on Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit’s blog that claimed an intriguing observation.

The abstract, which comes from an internal note from the at , claims to have observed a resonance at 115 GeV.

“This large enhancement over the rate implies that the present result is the first definitive observation of physics beyond the standard model,” the memo says. “Exciting new physics, including new particles, may be expected to be found in the very near future.”

As Woit noted, the resonance could signify the much anticipated : “It’s the sort of thing you would expect to see if there were a Higgs at that mass, but the number of events seen is about 30 times more than the standard model would predict.”

When the Nature blog The Great Beyond asked ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti about the rumor, she said that these kinds of signals frequently appear during data analysis, and are later falsified after more detailed scrutiny.

“Only official ATLAS results, i.e. results that have undergone all the necessary scientific checks by the Collaboration, should be taken seriously,” she said.

Other scientists have emphasized that it’s simply unscientific to publicly discuss internal material before the collaboration officially publishes a result. In the case of ATLAS, the collaboration involves 3,000 scientists from around the world who work together to analyze every detail of the data.

So why publicize the rumors in the first place? For Woit, who decided to write a full blog post on the comment he received, the reason is to expose the rumor for what it is.

“I’ve generally taken the point of view that it’s not my job to stop rumors, but rather to put out accurate information about them when available to me,” he wrote.

In the meantime, everyone not involved in the ATLAS collaboration might just let those scientists do their work in peace, and wait patiently for an official publication before discussing the research.

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More information: via: Discovery News

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User comments : 10

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2.1 / 5 (13) Apr 25, 2011
I can see no problem with public presentation of raw data ASAP - on the contrary, it would prohibit their manipulation later. Only their interpretation should be subject of some scrutiny.
1 / 5 (5) Apr 25, 2011
Regarding the actual finding, IMO it's equivalent to finding of particle responsible for dark matter. Such individual particle doesn't exist, but we can still observe some peak in distribution of CMBR photons at 2 cm wavelength scale.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
The so called (God) particle is an elusive little guy. If they do find the Higgs i wonder what the next step would be anyway? Anti-gravity?
1 / 5 (1) Apr 25, 2011
If they do find the Higgs i wonder what the next step would be anyway?
Various theories predict various number of "Higgses"... The simplest SUSY extension of Standard model (MSSM Superfields) predicts eight of them...

Will Physicists publish their research data now that there is a platform to do so, or is data too secretive?
5 / 5 (5) Apr 26, 2011
I can see no problem with public presentation of raw data ASAP - on the contrary, it would prohibit their manipulation later. Only their interpretation should be subject of some scrutiny.

Will Physicists publish their research data now that there is a platform to do so, or is data too secretive?

Mr. Belize, the Atlas data centers are receiving up to 10 gigabytes of raw data every second. This is eventually processed through various steps including track reconstruction, filtering and initial event analysis. The reconstructed data suitable for physics discoveries is available to all collaborators of Atlas but generally not to researches outside of Atlas. Billions of dollars and millions of man hours have been spent on this project and researchers don't want to give away the data until it has been thoroughly milked for any Nobel prizes.
5 / 5 (4) Apr 26, 2011
Will Physicists publish their research data now that there is a platform to do so, or is data too secretive?

There are such platforms already. They are called peer reviewed journals.

The raw data is of no use to anyone without the gear to interpret them (which is specifically built/programmed for the collider) - so what good would it do to put out the data to the public? There's 3000 people working on this. Let them do their jobs and not waste their time having to refute every kook who thinks he saw something in the data (and who mostly wouldn't know a sound statistic if it bit him).

Research papers require a lot of work. The publications usually include YEARS worth of data and analysis. Most definitely they are not some shot from the hip based on a first glance at the data.

Science is nothing like what Hollywood depicts. Get used to it.
not rated yet Apr 26, 2011
for that kind of money it better be not skimmed milk
5 / 5 (4) Apr 26, 2011
Here are many good reasons both for it, both against it. In general, when physicists are payed by public, their results belong to public. The raw collider data can be made public together with programs, which are used for their maintenance and description.

It's not as simple as that. The data belongs to the Atlas collaboration which has members from hundreds of institutes in many different countries. These are public entities but that doesn't mean they are obliged to release the data as soon as it is ready for physics analysis. The participants gain first access to the data to find new discoveries. Whether the raw data will eventually be released to the public is not so much a matter of will but more a practical issue. The amount of data is staggering. In fact it is so big that one of the challenges of Atlas has been to find ways to store all the data and do the physics analysis, several data centers have been set up just to handle this job.
1 / 5 (2) Apr 26, 2011
The boy that cried wolf.
1.5 / 5 (6) Apr 29, 2011
"how science is correctly done" ? there is no correct way.. you either discover something new or you don't..

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