CERN: We Have Observed a New Particle

A commenter here reports that a CERN video announcing that “We have observed a new particle” was released early, and is available here. Note that the language used refers to “observation” NOT “discovery”, indicating that CERN has decided on a version of the 5 sigma discovery criterion that has not yet been met. “Observation” generally means a lower standard of evidence such as 3 sigma. However, it appears that they are sensibly playing this down, with nothing in the video mentioning the word “discovery” or their decision not to use that word. Most physicists likely will however use “discovery” to describe these results, since the combined CMS/ATLAS results should be way beyond 5 sigma (look to Philip Gibbs tomorrow for exact numbers).

In the video, there is reference to “very very strong evidence” for a narrow peak in gamma-gamma (presumably above 4 sigma, close to 5 sigma in each experiment), as well as “also evidence” for ZZ (4 sigma?) and “less conclusive” evidence in other channels.

Immediate Update: The word here is that CERN is claiming that this is just one of multiple videos made to cover all eventualities. Maybe tomorrow’s version will substitute “discovery” for “observation”…

Update: As commenter Tim points out, this is a CMS video, not a CERN one, so it just refers to CMS results. Evidently CMS is not claiming “discovery”, but that doesn’t mean ATLAS doesn’t have slightly better results and will make a discovery claim. Also, it doesn’t show what CERN will say about the joint results of the two experiments.

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9 Responses to CERN: We Have Observed a New Particle

  1. Tim says:

    Do note that Joe only speaks for CMS in this video.

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  3. abbyyorker says:

    The Higgs boson is a solid prediction of the standard model no doubt: gauge invariance and renormalizability predict this esoteric particle and it has now been observed. It’s great, if expensive, science.

    But let’s face it: the hype is WAY overblown. It’s just not that huge of a deal to merit multiple announcements. Last year we had celebrations of a “bump”. Now we have an “observation” and not a “discovery”. I am getting past giving a shit, to be honest, and I have a little physics background. I can’t imagine what the average joe thinks about this hoopla. It’s a sign of the decline that we spend so much bandwidth on this particle.

  4. King Ray says:

    Any word or details on possible variations from the Standard Model Higgs, such as in the gamma-gamma and WW channels?

  5. King Ray says:

    I think it’s very important whether the Higgs is a Standard Model Higgs or something else. If it’s something else, then that means that there’s new physics ahead. Plus the search for the Higgs has eliminated a lot of speculative theories that many have worked decades on, now fruitlessly.

    Experiment makes theory bleed, and keeps it honest.

  6. David Derbes says:


    I completely disagree. (Disclaimer: Peter Higgs was my thesis supervisor, so I’m not unbiased.) This is the greatest prediction and confirmation since the 1919 eclipse by Frank Dyson and Arthur Eddington.

    That the taxpayers of Europe spent ten billion dollars on what amounts to a postcard of equations by a guy in 1964 is breathtaking. Not claiming Higgs is the equivalent of Einstein (that would be silly) but this prediction to me is as astounding as the bending of light (by the right amount.) There is nothing like the Higgs that we know of; a fundamental scalar? Wild. (Maybe it isn’t fundamental, but who knows yet?)

    People have been chasing this beast for forty years. Anticipation alone justifies quite a bit of hype. Add to that the immense labor, frustration, investment of time and money of so many for so long, and it’s not hard to see that this is really one hell of a day.

  7. Anonyrat says:

    This is the greatest prediction and confirmation since the 1919 eclipse by Frank Dyson and Arthur Eddington.

    I’d amend that that this is the greatest prediction and confirmation since the observation of the Z boson.

  8. David Nataf says:

    I’d be hesitant to say the Higgs is a more fundamental confirmation of theory than say, the Dirac equation’s prediction of antimatter, or Schwarzschild’s prediction of black holes, or Friedmann’s prediction of an expanding universe, but yes, this is cool.

  9. BJM says:

    abbyyorker says:
    “…It’s a sign of the decline that we spend so much bandwidth on this particle.”

    You’re kidding!!!

    In the general scheme of things, news on the Higgs is a blip amid the flood of meaningless celebrity gossip and mendacious political propaganda that comprises what is laughingly referred to as “news” these days. The “average Joe” will remain almost totally unaware of the Higgs “hoopla”.

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