[Marxism] There is no God (particle) after all
lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Aug 5 13:12:05 MDT 2016
NY Times, August 5 2016
The Particle That Wasn’t
By DENNIS OVERBYE
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
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
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
“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
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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