[Marxism] There is no God (particle) after all

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 5 13:12:05 MDT 2016

NY Times, August 5 2016
The Particle That Wasn’t

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in 2014. Credit Pierre Albouy/Reuters
A great “might have been” for the universe, or at least for the people 
who study it, disappeared Friday.

Last December, two teams of physicists working at CERN’s Large Hadron 
Collider reported that they might have seen traces of what could be a 
new fundamental constituent of nature, an elementary particle that is 
not part of the Standard Model that has ruled particle physics for the 
last half-century.

A bump on a graph signaling excess pairs of gamma rays was most likely a 
statistical fluke, they said. But physicists have been holding their 
breath ever since.

If real, the new particle would have opened a crack between the known 
and the unknown, affording a glimpse of quantum secrets undreamed of 
even by Einstein. Answers to questions like why there is matter but not 
antimatter in the universe, or the identity of the mysterious dark 
matter that provides the gravitational glue in the cosmos. In the few 
months after the announcement, 500 papers were written trying to 
interpret the meaning of the putative particle.

On Friday, physicists from the same two CERN teams reported that under 
the onslaught of more data, the possibility of a particle had melted away.

“We don’t see anything,” said Tiziano Camporesi of CERN, the European 
Organization for Nuclear Research and a spokesman for one of the 
detector teams known as C.M.S., on the eve of the announcement. “In 
fact, there is even a small deficit exactly at that point.”

His statement was echoed by a member of the competing team, known as 
Atlas. James Beacham, of Ohio State University, said, “As it stands now, 
the bumplet has gone into a flatline.”

“This is the success of science, this is what science does,” he added.

Dr. Camporesi said, “It’s disappointing because so much hype has been 
made about it.” But, he added, noting that the experimenters had always 
cautioned that the bump was most likely a fluke, “we have always been 
very cool about it.”

The new results were presented in Chicago at the International 
Conference of High Energy Physics, ICHEP for short, by Bruno Lenzi of 
CERN for the Atlas team, and Chiara Rovelli for their competitors named 
for their own detector called C.M.S., short for Compact Muon Solenoid.

The presentations were part of an outpouring of dozens of papers from 
the two teams on the results so far this year from the collider, all of 
them in general agreement with the Standard Model.

The main news is that the collider, which had a rocky start, exploding 
back in 2008, is now running “swimmingly” in CERN’s words, producing up 
to a billion proton-proton collisions a second.

“We’re just at the beginning of the journey,” said Fabiola Gianotti, 
CERN’s director-general, in a statement.

But perhaps nature has not gotten the memo.

The non-result has further deepened an already deep mystery about the 
famous Higgs boson, which explains why other particles have mass, and 
whose discovery resulted in showers of champagne and Nobel Prizes four 
years ago.

The Higgs, one of the heaviest elementary particles known, weighs about 
125 billion electron volts, in the units of mass and energy favored by 
particle physicists — about as much as an entire iodine atom. That, 
however, is way too light by a factor of trillions according to standard 
quantum calculations, physicists say, unless there is some new 
phenomenon, some new physics, exerting its influence on the universe and 
keeping the Higgs mass from zooming to cataclysmic scales. That would 
mean new particles.

“We have seen the Higgs, we expect to see something else,” said Lisa 
Randall, a Harvard particle theorist who was not part of the CERN 
experiments. Hence the excitement over the December bump. Its mass, 
about 750 billion electron volts, was in the range where something 
should happen.

“It would have been great if it was there,” Dr. Randall said. “It is the 
sort of thing they should be looking for if we want to understand the 

For a long time, the phenomenon physicists have thought would appear to 
save the day is a conjecture known as supersymmetry, which comes with 
the prediction of a whole new set of elementary particles, known as 
wimps, for weakly interacting massive particles, one of which could 
comprise the dark matter that is at the heart of cosmologists’ dreams.

But so far, wimps haven’t shown up either in the collider or in 
underground experiments designed to detect wimps floating through space. 
Neither has evidence for an alternative idea that the universe has more 
than three dimensions of space.

The Large Hadron Collider is expected to run for another 20 years. So, 
these could still be exciting times.

The CERN collider was built at a cost of some $10 billion dollars, to 
speed protons around an 18-mile underground track at more than 99 
percent of the speed of light, and smash them together with a combined 
energy of 14 trillion electron volts, in search of new particles and 
forces of nature. The more energy they can pour into these collisions, 
microscopic samples of primordial fire, by virtue of Einstein’s 
equivalence of mass and energy, the more massive particles can come out 
of them.

During its first two years of running the collider, hampered by 
electrical problems, ran at only half power but still managed to find 
the Higgs boson.

Since last spring, after a two-year shutdown, CERN physicists have been 
running their collider at nearly its full energy, 13 trillion electron 
volts, or 13 TeV. “The potential for discovery is the biggest we’ve had 
since it first turned on,” said Kyle Cranmer of New York University, a 
member of the Atlas team.

Whether this is enough to break through to new physics — if in fact 
there is new physics to be found — depends on who is talking. “It might 
be we don’t have the firepower,” Dr. Randall said, suggesting that 
physicists might eventually have to build a more powerful machine, “If 
we didn’t see it at 8 TeV, it’s not a shocker if it is not at 13.”

Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, said, 
“Energy is the great tool of discovery, so going from 8 TeV to 13 TeV is 
a really big deal. Keep your fingers crossed.”

Dr. Camporesi said it was too soon to tell. So far physicists have only 
had time to pluck the low-hanging fruit from their new machine, and more 
subtle, difficult analyses would take time. “I would consider us lucky 
if we discovered new phenomena or a new state of matter in two or three 
years,” he said, adding, “It would mean nature has been kind to us, but 
nature might be more subtle.”

Dave Charlton of the University of Birmingham, the Atlas spokesman, 
said, “We don’t know what nature has in store for us.”

Modern particle physics, in particular, is a counting game in which a 
small deviation from calculated expectations building up in the course 
of millions or billions of individual events — a bump on a graph — can 
rewrite the laws of nature.

Last December’s bump first manifested as an excess of pairs of gamma 
rays produced in the collisions.

They could have been produced in pairs by the radioactive decay of a new 
particle. This was exciting because the Higgs boson itself had first 
showed up as pairs of gamma rays, except this new particle was six times 
more massive than the Higgs and — unlike the Higgs — was not expected.

But as Dr. Cranmer noted at the time, there was a one-in-93 chance this 
was a fluke — far from the 1-in-3.5-million odds of mere chance, known 
as five-sigma, that is considered the gold standard for a discovery. But 
the fact that both teams saw something was enticing. Theoretical papers 
started flowing immediately, suggesting, among other things, that the 
new particle might be a cousin of the Higgs — good for supersymmetry — 
or a graviton, the conjectured quantum carrier of gravity.

“Had the bump been real, it would have without a doubt been the most 
important discovery in particle physics in the past half century,” said 
Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Arizona State University. Which is why 
the odds were that it probably wasn’t.”

In three months of this year, Dr. Beacham said, his team had collected 
more than a quadrillion proton collisions, four times as much data as in 
all of 2015.

As experimentalists, Dr. Beacham and his colleagues had to ignore the 
theory papers about what it all might mean. “We can’t be chasing 
ambulances,” he said. “Let the data do the talking. In this case it 
turned into this flat line.”

Maria Spiropulu of the California Institute of Technology and a member 
of the C.M.S. team, said, “So there is no gloom and doom in my opinion 
that this is gone. As we have said multiple times, it could have been 
anything, including nothing.”

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