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Further confirmation of Higgs boson

Most people would think that the existence of the Higgs boson has been established. After all, the reports of its detection were announced with great fanfare in 2102 and two of the theorists involved in predicting its existence were awarded the Nobel prize in 2013.

But scientists rarely simply accept a result and move on. They look to see if there is confirmatory evidence using the standard method of hypothetico-deductive reasoning where they pose the question “If this result is true, what other things should we observe?” and then they go looking for them. If they find what they were looking for, then that adds to the evidence in favor of the original discovery. If they don’t find it, it casts some doubt and efforts are redoubled to try and resolve the discrepancy.

Those who recall the cold fusion episode will remember that after the initial reports of the discovery, it was the failure to find this kind of confirmatory evidence that led to doubt and eventual rejection of the idea. Much of scientific research involves this kind of cleaning up activity that takes place largely outside of the public eye. Major discoveries especially are subjected to this kind of close scrutiny.

In the case of the Higgs boson, according to theory, after it is produced it can decay into various modes. One consists of two photons and another consists of W and Z bosons, and both these decay modes had been observed as distinctive signatures of the existence of the Higgs in the discovery process. But the Higgs should, on occasion, also decay into a pair of fermions and now a paper from CERN reports that this decay has been seen at the 3.8 sigma level, meaning that there is only a chance of 1 in 10,000 that it could be a false positive.

This is how science works, always seeking new evidence that either corroborates or contradicts the existing paradigm. As I said in my debate with Joe Puckett, god is a lousy theory because religious people never do anything similar, like asking “If my god exists, what things should I expect to see?” and then go and look for them. And you can forget about statistical significance when it comes to god theories. People’s ‘feelings’ are seen as good enough.


  1. says

    “detection … announced … in 2102 … awarded the Nobel prize in 2013.”
    I NEW messing around colliding those large hadrons was gonna mess with time!!! :-)
    (sorry couldn’t resist)

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    “If my god exists, what things should I expect to see?”

    Wrath. Movings in mysterious ways. Smitings.

  3. sawells says

    We should also remember the importance of asking “If this is true, what should we expect to NOT see?”, and then looking for those things.

  4. lpetrich says

    So this particle is behaving as one would expect the Standard-Model Higgs particle to behave.

    It’s produced mainly by gluon fusion, and that involves a virtual top-quark loop. So the experiments are testing mainly

    (top-quark coupling) * (all the other couplings)

    We’ve gotten the best results for the W and the Z, and from this news article, we have results for the bottom quark and the tau lepton.

    From (interaction) ~ (mass)^2, we can estimate the Higgs particle’s decay rates into other Standard-Model particles.

    The next quark down is the charm quark, and its decay fraction is 1/10 that of the bottom quark. It’s likely difficult to see.

    The next lepton down is the muon, and its decay fraction is 1/300 that of the tau lepton. However, muons last long enough to make it into the detectors, so this should be a very clean sort of process.

    The next ones down are the strange quark, the down quark, the up quark, the electron, and the neutrinos, and not surprisingly, their interactions are even weaker. I don’t expect that we’ll see the Higgs particle decay into electrons.

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