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Enough Already! June 5, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in blog, physics.

Just stop! The latest batch of rumors of a bump in a D0 analysis has gotten way out of hand. My original plan was not to say anything: I can’t participate in rumor mongering here: I’m a member of D0. So I have little to gain, and a lot to lose!

So, before I get to what pissed me off. If you want to read the rumors head over to Tommaso’s blog (here and here). He even left me a comment recently:

On a totally different matter, Godon: please leak something about the new evidence for weird bbbar production found by D0. Is it true it is a 5-sigma effect ? Is it at 180 GeV ? How about its width ?
Let us know!

I will now tell all. It is definitely true that there are people in D0 working on such an analysis. The people working on the analysis are some of D0′s best. And the review board for this analysis (a hot analysis long before any of these rumors started) has a number of very good people. The point is: D0 isn’t going to release anything officially until they are sure it is right. It is the same with every analysis we release. So, till then — rumor away (I’m keeping score) – but they are rumors.

So, when that analysis makes it out this blog will not be the place to see it first. I am not directly involved in it — or even in reviewing it (except as a collaboration member). The official D0 results page will have all the info you need. I’ll certainly put a pointer to it since there seems to be so much interest in it. When will it come out? Some of the speculation on release doesn’t seem unreasonable, but remember that the criteria here isn’t a conference deadline, but, rather, getting it right. I’ve seen a number of analyzers work very hard to make a conference deadline only to have their review board force them to spend an extra several weeks doing cross checks (and those analyses had no rumors associated with them).

Just remember, ladies and germs: Rumors are rumors, science is science.

So, two things set me off to writing this post. First, Tommaso did it in a minor way:

Will science magazines be willing to wait ? Hmmm. I bet there already are a few investigations ongoing (but I swear I personally have not been contacted by the press yet).

Dude! If you get called by the press to comment on this rumor – you will be making second hand comments on rumors! You have almost no position of authority to talk about this (at least last time you were a member of the collaboration releasing the result — and more importantly, it was public already). A minor misquote by a reporter and you’ll have all of DZERO yelling at the CDF spokes people about your behavior. The previous New Scientist article has already gotten quite a few people upset! Tread carefully here (just some friendly advice, eh…?).

But the thing that really got me angry was the Slate article.

The current rumor, which comes in time for the summer conference circuit, may be different. It claims an experiment at the Tevatron has found a peak twice as high as the previous rumors’ bumps. And unlike the other rumors, this one includes details: the new particle’s mass, for instance, which fits within theoretical bounds on the standard model Higgs. Some versions include a decay chain, which describes what the new particle turned into as the experiment progressed, and which may be consistent with the standard model’s predictions.

Wow. I’m a member of D0, I’ve read the note, and I still learned some new things from this article! But then it goes on to say:

So, if the rumor is true and the standard model Higgs has been found at the Tevatron, the LHC is in big trouble: Immediately, its “guaranteed” success—the final particle of the standard model, not to mention a couple of Nobel Prizes for European scientists—is gone.


The irony is that things look just as bleak for the LHC if the rumor is false, and the Europeans end up finding the standard model Higgs themselves.

WTF!???!? There are so many busted things about this. First off, simple discovery of a SM Higgs is not, at least to me, an obvious Nobel. Definitely worth something like that for effort! Isn’t a Nobel prize supposed to be for something that really changes people’s understanding of the world? A standard model Higgs won’t do that — it will confirm it. Perhaps a shared Nobel with Higgs himself? I suppose. Now, a non standard model Higgs. That is definitely worth a Nobel. No question there in my mind. So they give Nobel’s for guaranteed successes? ;-)

His second paragraph, of course, contradicts everything he says in his first paragraph — if the LHC did find the Higgs and get a bunch of Nobel prizes then hey — that would be pretty bleak. Riiight.

The point he is making, I think, is that he doesn’t think there is much chance of the LHC seeing anything beyond the Higgs:

Physicists have developed such a complete description of elementary particles that, once the final piece of the theory is in place, the chances that the LHC will find anything the standard model doesn’t predict are almost negligible.

In short. The LHC just isn’t worth it once the SM Higgs is found. Just shut it down! Spend the money on something else.

He is right in the sense that it is certainly possible we will see a Standard Model Higgs at the LHC and nothing more. From the point of view of moral and the future of particle accelerator based physics that will be awful. From the point of science it will be very interesting. The reason? Because what we know about the Standard Model suggests that something must be happening around the 1 TeV scale. If there is nothing — then there must be a mechanism to “fix” the Standard Model.

What does that mean? Well, if nature does the simplest thing then we would expect the LHC to see something beyond the Standard Model.

Finally, even if the Tevatron does find a Higgs there is no way we will make enough of them to know if it is a SM Higgs or something more interesting. No matter how you look at it, the LHC will be scientifically interesting.

Turns out the Slate author has a web site of his own, and a blog entry where he has a few more details about the rumors. I’m not familiar with him, sounds like he is an ex theorist from Harvard from the blog entry.

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1. dorigo - June 5, 2007

Hi Gordon,

Ha! Finally you get drawn in this, lol! Thank you for the clarification, although I would have liked to know more definitely whether there is any chance to see this result out for the Summer.

Now, let me answer the point where you mention my despicable activity. You are of course entitled to believing that I would open my wide mouth to let out trivialities if called on the phone by a science writer. But what would I have to say ? Nothing for sure about the D0 analysis, which you guys have done after all a good job at keeping reserved – I do not know whether it is a remake of the old one, or if there is a “method-2-like” background estimate which would make me frown some more (we do not know multi-heavy-flavor production nearly well enough as you know).

So, of course I will not have anything to say which can be menacing to D0. And the fact that, as you correctly say, I have no authority, makes me even more inoffensive… On the other hand, just for fun let me assume I were to do a silly thing such as telling a science writer that D0 has found the higgs and they are just checking the result: if your spokes then yelled at the CDF spokes about my behavior, they would expose themselves to the ridicule! I am a scientist and CDF (and CMS) do not pay me for my job or my opinions, so their authority on what I do or say is zero, if it is not relevant to CDF (or CMS) activities.

In any case, of course I wouldn’t. And the past incidents with the MSSM CDF tentative signal have indeed made me a bit more wary with talking to the press. That just because of respect to those of my collaborators who think differently from me.

If the press calls me, I will be available to them to educate them about the physics. That always helps, as your quotes of the Slate piece clearly exemplify. And I will just tell them what is the general state of affairs for these searches. So lay back and relax.

Finally, I know you guys are more relaxed with these issues than my average colleague in CDF. You and I know that rumors are just, well, rumors, and that official results are what serious people deal with. Rumors are for keeping the interest alive in what we do among the general public, and to a lesser extent for informing scientists of what may be lurking behind the fence.


2. Hunting the Higgs is not a (D)Zero Sum Game - Asymptotia - June 5, 2007

[...] More on this from Gordon Watts, who as a DZero member, is annoyed. Tommaso Diorgo also adds some more thoughts [...]

3. Dave Bacon - June 5, 2007

Do you really think a SM Higgs isn’t a guaranteed Nobel? I’ve always assumed it would be! My thought that since there are so many theorists who stake some claim to the SM Higgs, I would assume there would be an experimental award, maybe joint with Higgs and then another theory prize. So for me I’ve always thought it would be two Nobels :)

4. gordonwatts - June 5, 2007

Dave — that would be great if that was the case! But I’m not going to hold my breath. The thing I really want to see is what is beyond the SM…

“I would have liked to know more definitely whether there is any chance to see this result out for the Summer” – there is a chance, of course. But definitely — I can’t say for obvious reasons: we all have to review the analysis and anyone who finds a problem can cause the process to grind to a halt. Thus, as I said, it will be out when we are confident of the answer.

As far as ridicule. You are fooling yourself, I’m afraid. If everything was transparent (and we wouldn’t need rumors, I suppose), then what you say is correct. But, trust me, if you were quoted as saying “D0 has found the higgs” in the press it would get a lot of people angry. And in this field we deepend on working with each other… so, just be very careful about what you say!

The thing we, and you of course, want to do is keep rumors from getting out of hand in the popular press. Excitement is one thing. Getting everyone reved up about something and then having it turn out to be something crazy is not good. We have to find a way to share these rumors and make the press (or whomever) understand exactly how much scientific weight they have: not much!

5. dorigo - June 5, 2007


my point about the ridicule was that I am free to do what I want and pay for the consequences – but the CDF spokes have other business to attend than watch what each of their members do or say with respect of things not specifically a CDF business. Of course I would ruin my credibility and get people mad if I did something that silly and idiotic, but the damage would come from elsewhere.

I agree about the difference between excitement for what the Tevatron is doing, and a constant roller-coaster of unsubstantiated claims. And I also agree it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a gap in the authority between scientific journals and science magazines. I think the latter want to make it smaller, so it is ultimately up to them…


6. gordonwatts - June 5, 2007

It is a tough nut to crack. We want people to talk about the physics. After all, we wouldn’t be in this if we didn’t think it was interesting. On the other hand, what draws them in is the excitement of a rumor like this… on the other hand… :-)

7. Top Posts « WordPress.com - June 6, 2007

[...] Enough Already! Just stop! The latest batch of rumors of a bump in a D0 analysis has gotten way out of hand. My original plan was not […] [...]

8. moosino - June 6, 2007

very well said, Gordon!

9. And now about cancer! « Random (not i.i.d.) Thoughts - June 6, 2007

[...] the thing I am really wondering about with the Higgs search rumor mill discussion (see e.g. here, here, here or here), is that these collaborations don’t care for attention in the media. I [...]

10. Tony Smith - June 7, 2007

Gordon, maybe you might not feel free to get into such a discussion, but I do have a question about the D0 Higgs rumors.

Assuming that the rumored D0 signal turns out to be a real 180 GeV Higgs, do you think that consideration will be given to non-supersymmetric interpretations such as
the composite Tquark condensate model of Hashimoto, Tanabashi, and Yamawaki, who published in hep-ph/0311165 a prediction of a Higgs at 176-180 GeV ?

They used a T-quark condensate model in 8-dimensional spacetime with 4 compact dimensions. They said:

“… “… The idea of the top quark condensate explains naturally the large top mass of the order of the electroweak symmetry breaking (EWSB) scale. In … this idea often called the “top mode standard model” (TMSM), the scalar bound state of tbar-t plays the role of the Higgs boson in the SM. …
the SM gauge bosons and the third generation of quarks and leptons live in the … 8-dimensional bulk, while the first and second generations are confined in the … 4-dimensional Minkowski space-time …
… We predict masses of the top (m_t) and the Higgs (m_H) …
based on the renormalization group for the top Yukawa and Higgs quartic couplings with the compositeness conditions at the scale where the bulk top condenses …
for …[ Kaluza-Klein type ]… dimension… D=8 …
m_t = 172-175 GeV
m_H=176-188 GeV …”.

My fear is the the supersymmetry industry would seize the MSSM possibility and generate so much hype that non-supersymmetric alternatives would be ignored in follow-up theoretical research and analysis, even though the Hashimoto-Tanabashi-Yamawaki model is very concrete and actually predicted the 180 GeV Higgs mass.

Tony Smith

11. gordonwatts - June 7, 2007

Tony — the beuty about science is that all of the results will be public. So, anytime something new happens, it is put out there, and then the community can push for people to test it to see which underlying theory is actually correct.

However, before we get to too much speculation on the source of somethign that might be causing a rumor… :-) the first thing to ask in science is “is it reproducable?” So, if there is something like this bump that everyone is talking about, a question to ask is “Does CDF see it?” and then “If they do — start speculating and coming up with new tests!” or “If not, can we figure out why D0 did and CDF didn’t?” — Remember the 4 jet bump seen in ALEPH?

12. Another Teachable Moment « Life as a Physicist - June 7, 2007

[...] Teachable Moment June 7, 2007 Posted by gordonwatts in science. trackback This rumor is too good a gold mine. I guess gossip is [...]

13. matt - June 18, 2007

The slate article reminds me of the turn of the century, when the “only” thing left to discover in physics was the luminiferous aether.

14. Tim - June 18, 2007

God will reveal what he wants to when he wants to.

15. dorigo - June 18, 2007

Yes Tim, me too. I will disclose what I want only when I want. You, instead, appear to be frozen, lacking any free will.


16. dorigo - June 18, 2007

BTW Gordon, how do you like real press coverage ? ;-)

Ah, and – I got interviewed by the press twice about this! :-o
(one of them was the wired guy).
I was a good kid though – I said straight away I would not discuss anything about D0.


17. dorigo - June 18, 2007

stupid smiley converter! there is quite a difference between : – o and :-o !

18. gordonwatts - June 18, 2007

Enjoy your access to the press, T, just don’t abuse it. :-)

19. Rumor News « Life as a Physicist - June 18, 2007

[...] by Wired (but I could only find it on ABC news). I was alerted to this by T’s comments in my previous post. It actually tries to address what a statistical fluctuation means, and finishes up with the [...]

20. Rumores de hallazgo del Higgs… « “Nature’s beauty is more subtle than perfect symmetry” - June 23, 2007

[...] los rumores que ya llenaban la blogósfera (muchos incluso estimando a qué Higgs correspondería), Gordon Watts, miembro de la colaboración D0 aclaró D0 isn’t going to release anything officially until they are sure it is right. It is the same [...]

21. Centauri Dreams » Blog Archive » The Latest Carnivals of Science - June 28, 2007

[...] is now up at Chris Rowan’s Highly Allochthonous site, where discussions move from the Higgs boson to Cassini’s extended mission, with time in between to investigate puddles on Mars. Take note [...]

22. Science After Sunclipse - July 24, 2007

Overbye on Hunting the Higgs

Dennis Overbye has an article in today’s New York Times on the search for the Higgs boson, and naturally, I’ve got complaints about it. It’s a pretty good piece: Overbye can do good work (he went a little overboard looking for journa…

23. Higgs Boson Found? - Bad Astronomy and Universe Today Forum - November 18, 2009

[...] knowledge about what is going on in the D0 Experiment. Gordon Watts is a member of D0 and says "Enough Already!" Another comment from Charm &c. He/she is at Fermilab but not a member of [...]

24. Rumores de hallazgo del Higgs… « Conexión causal - March 29, 2010

[...] los rumores que ya llenaban la blogósfera (muchos incluso estimando a qué Higgs correspondería), Gordon Watts, miembro de la colaboración D0 aclaró D0 isn’t going to release anything officially until they are sure it is right. It is the same [...]

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