More Higgs Non-News

The latest Higgs non-news is that there is news about when there will be news. The Scientific Policy Committee at CERN will meet on December 12 and 13, with the agenda for December 13 featuring a 15 min presentation by the CERN Director-General on “CERN plans for communications on the Higgs boson search at the LHC” in the morning. This will be followed in the afternoon by a public event including half-hour updates on the SM Higgs searches from each of the experiments, and a “joint public discussion” about what it all means.

Before the LHC I tended to be 50/50 on the odds for a SM Higgs vs. no SM Higgs. As data has come out during the past year, and rumors have arrived in recent months, my take on these odds has gone back and forth. First it looked like maybe there was a 140 GeV Higgs, then not. Then I was hearing that nothing was being seen by either experiment, followed by rumors about something being seen by one, but not the other, making a SM Higgs start to look unlikely. Lately though, I’m starting to hear that maybe both experiments are seeing something in the Higgs to gamma-gamma channel. Is it at the same mass? What’s the statistical significance if you combine the results? Looks like we’ll hear about this on December 13 (unless someone leaks the news to a blogger first…).

For now, I’m back to 50/50. According to the latest Higgs coverage in the New York Times, back in 2005 Frank Wilczek was willing to give 10/1 odds in favor of the Higgs (although he wants a SUSY version), at least if the stakes were in Nobel chocolate coins.

Update: This month’s Physics World has a long article by Matthew Chalmers (not available free online I think, see here) about the search for SUSY. In includes details about David Gross’s SUSY bet (with Ken Lane):

SUSY is “alive and well” according to the Nobel-prize-winning physicist David Gross of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics in Santa Barbara, who helped to create quantum chromodynamics – the theory of the strong
force. “People shouldn’t pay too much attention to the bounds now because it’s signals that matter,” he told Physics World. “When will I give up on SUSY? I have a serious bet with Ken Lane that it will be found after 50
inverse femtobarns [of data],” he says.

The LHC won’t accumulate that amount of data until quite a while after it comes back up at or near design energy in 2014. So, it looks like Gross won’t have to pay off his gambling debts until 2015 or so.

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30 Responses to More Higgs Non-News

  1. chris says:

    begging for rumors, eh? well, I’m dying to hear them, too of course.

  2. I’ve been looking for a betting shop where you can bet on the Higgs boson being found within a period of x or not, but couldn’t find one. Anyone knows?

  3. Peter Woit says:


    If such a thing exists, one obvious problem is insider trading. There are 6000 or so physicists with some sort of access to internal CMS/ATLAS data, smaller groups with more detailed access to the latest analyses of data, and these people all have friends…

  4. Philip Gibbs says:

    From the title is looks like we now have news of a date when they will give us news about how the news will be communicated when they have it. If it helps, an anonymous commenter at viXra says CMS and ATLAS will each give 30 minute talks about new Higgs results after the council meeting, but I don’t see that on indico yet and it is not certian that they will be public even if they really happen

  5. a says:

    ATLAS and CMS do not speak among themselves, and experimentalists at CERN are very strict. So, the people that already know what ATLAS and CMS will announce are theorists working away from CERN.

  6. aa says:

    intrade has several higgs markets
    observed before dec 31 is currently 17%

  7. Blendletan says:

    If you are interested in betting on Higgs,

    The odds being given are kinda strange if you ask me, btw…

  8. Chris Oakley says:

    Thanks, aa and Blendletan for the link to intrade. I just signed up and sold 29 x December 2011 Higgs. This cannot be called insider trading as I left HEP in July 1987 (I would have happily put the same trade on then, BTW). It is not irreligious either as, in my humble one, calling it the “God” particle is one of the stupidest things ever.

  9. DB says:

    Tomasso Dorigo believes that the hints of a Higgs at 119 GeV (+/- 2) as seen last summer by CMS , of which he is a member, will be vindicated in due course. He offered me 3/1 but while I may be sceptical, those odds were not good enough to bet against.
    Initially, ATLAS didn’t see these hints, but there have been discussions between both groups and it may be that after some adjustments to their processing they now also see something.
    In any case, it would be unreasonable, given that the LHC is poorly positioned to find a low mass Higgs, to expect an early decisive conclusion.
    But if ATLAS is now seeing something similar, and if the additional data since the summer conferences show even a slight improvement on the initial signal, then this would be compatible with the sort of evolving discovery pattern one might expect from the LHC in the low mass regime.
    An early result could be provided by the Tevatron data – which has better resolution in the gamma-gamma channel – concerning a 95% exclusion of Higgs. The Tevatron dataset will never be able to confirm a Higgs to 5 sigma, but it can exclude one @95%. But all’s quiet on that Western front. A couple of months ago some at CERN tried to argue that a 95% exclusion on the Higgs would not be enough, but they failed to explain why the LEP2 exclusions below 114 GeV, which were also only 95%, would not then also need to be revisited. But this distraction seems to have taken a backseat for now.

  10. Thomas Larsson says:

    Exactly what does “Observation of the Higgs Boson Particle” mean at intrade? 5-sigma? Published? Announced at some conference? Announced by whom? (ok, probably a spokes-person for atlas or cms).

    I’m willing to bet against 5-sigma by Dec 31, 2011.

  11. SD says:

    @ Thomas Larsson: from the rules tab in

    “Clarification (Jan 5th 2009): for the Higgs Boson particle to be “observed” there must be a “five sigma discovery” of the particle.”

    There are 126 shares at $0.5/share (where $10 ($0) means (no) discovery): I think you are not the only one willing to bet against it. 😉

  12. Pingback: 13 December gaat CERN ons iets vertellen over het Higgs boson

  13. Chris Oakley says:


    It is trading at $1.60 now, so if you “sell” then you get $1.60 if it is not found, but have to pay out $8.40 if it is; reverse these if you choose to buy. The inferred probability of finding the Higgs before 2012 is therefore 16%.

  14. ohwilleke says:

    The kind of disclosure format that is in the works sounds more like an exclusion than a find.

  15. well, thanks for the link to the “intrade” platform, didn’t know that one yet 🙂

  16. SD says:


    If you want to sell (buy) the price is $0.5 ($1.59), so the average probability is 10.5%. The spread reflects the uncertainty of this prediction, as quantified by “the market”. In practice if you want to make money by betting against the Higgs being discovered by 2011, you would earn $1 for every $20 that you invest (but I think that there are also rather large commissions, so you might actually get no money at all). So I think that, though I’m 99% sure of no 2011 Higgs discovery, I’ll keep that money in my wallet, ready to pay (part of) a nice dinner.

  17. Kent Traverson says:

    In 1997, when the SETI Institute was conducting a scan of the sky for any alien signals, a strange one was detected. While the staff quietly tried to figure out what it might be, one of the workers there ran to call his girlfriend that they may have found The Signal. She spread the news from there and in a matter of mere hours the rumor grew exponentially.

    The signal turned out to be from a satellite of terrestrial origin. But the moral of the story is, humans are a bunch of big gossips, so you should be getting your Higgs rumor news in no time. And you will share, won’t you?

  18. Eric says:

    “So, it looks like Gross won’t have to pay off his gambling debts until 2015 or so.”

    Well, if the Higgs mass turns out to be 119 GeV or so as rumors suggest, then I think that Gross will most likely be winning his bets. This is exactly the mass range predicted by the MSSM.

  19. Pingback: Higgs rumour anaylsis points to 125 GeV « viXra log

  20. Peter Woit says:


    Since 119 GeV is exactly the mass predicted by the MSSM, I guess if the latest rumors about a 125-126 GeV Higgs turn out to be right, that’s it for the MSSM, no?

  21. Vince says:

    Eric said “This is exactly the mass range predicted by the MSSM.” The key words are “mass range”, not “119 GeV is exactly the mass predicted by the MSSM.”

  22. Eric says:


    As Vince points out, I did not say that the MSSM predicts exactly 119 GeV for the Higgs mass, but rather that this is in the range predicted in the MSSM. This range is essentially less than 130 GeV down to 114 GeV, including the LEP limit. A 125 GeV Higgs would also favor SUSY.

  23. Peter Woit says:


    I see, the “exact” prediction of the MSSM is that the Higgs has a mass not already ruled out by experiment…

  24. Eric says:


    The upper limit on the Higgs mass (130-135 GeV) in the MSSM has been known for a long time, and it is no accident that the remaining viable mass range for the Higgs is consistent with this. If the observed Higgs mass is within this range, which may very well be the case, then this implies that superpartners will be observed. So the point I am making here is not that SUSY predicts the exact mass of the Higgs, but that observation of the Higgs in the mass range preferred by SUSY implies that low-energy SUSY exists and will be observed at the LHC.

  25. Mitchell Porter says:

    Eric said

    “The upper limit on the Higgs mass (130-135 GeV) in the MSSM has been known for a long time, and it is no accident that the remaining viable mass range for the Higgs is consistent with this.”

    In what sense is it *not* an accident? Isn’t “the remaining viable mass range” a result of LHC search strategies, not of theory?

  26. Martin says:

    Before the LHC I tended to be 50/50 on the odds for a SM Higgs vs. no SM Higgs. As data has come out during the past year, and rumors have arrived in recent months, my take on these odds has gone back and forth.

    Hi Peter,
    I have always thought you were a SUSY sceptic. Now you seem to be positioning yourself as undecided. Or does “no SM Higgs” mean no Higgs at all rather than a SUSY Higgs instead?

  27. Peter Woit says:


    There I meant no Higgs at all (i.e. no elementary scalar field playing the role of the Higgs). I’m still a SUSY skeptic, even if there is a Higgs at 125 GeV…

  28. crandles says:

    Re: Betting at intrade

    What would you like to see in the way of scientific betting?

    Intrade wrote
    “What would be the time span involved in this market? Mid-2012, end of 2012?
    How would the existence of Dark Matter be confirmed? What criteria would you suggest?

    We haven’t had a great record with scientific markets in the past, but if we have a short-medium term markets (no longer than a year out) that will generate interest and trading volume we’d consider it. ”

    Maybe they need scientists to ensure questions are well posed.
    Is it too late for: Confirmation of detection of WIMP in Earth based laboratory?
    Does confirmation mean peer reviewed paper published?

    I don’t think intrades fees at $5 per month regardless of number of contract traded is much, but bank charges for conversion to US$ and transfer to Ireland and then back again mean it is probably not worth looking for a certain 5% return before fees unless you are going to leave the money there for other opportunities. For that you may need or want more scientific contracts. So suggesting more contracts when intrade asks might make sense.

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