Big Deal In Physics Today

Today CERN announced that they have probably found the Higgs Boson. I read this last night so I was expecting it:

They’re very likely going to announce that the 5-σ threshold, the “gold standard” for discovery, has been reached, and that we’ve discovered the Higgs boson.

Assuming things go as we expect, the speculation will turn to the question of what does it mean, and I’ve got some early analysis for you.

For a Higgs right around 125 GeV, which is where all preliminary analysis points, we expect that the Higgs will be produced at a certain rate, and that it will decay into various other particles at particular rates. What are those rates? There’s an excellent analysis in this paper, that shows what the standard model rate is for various possibilities, and what the preliminary data is for each detector, thus far.

If this is, in fact, where the Higgs appears to be, and the rates observed are consistent with the standard model predictions, and there are no other “new particle” announcements that come out on the 4th, then this is an amazing victory for the standard model.

And a nightmare scenario for everything else, including supersymmetry, extra dimensions, and string theory.

Here’s a bit more:

The great nightmare of people interested in particle physics is that the standard model works toowell. That the Higgs exists somewhere between 120 and 140 GeV, that there’s no supersymmetry or extra dimensions or composite Higgs or technicolor or anything surprising.

And this would mean that we’d never understand why the Higgs couples the way it does, or whythe particles in the Universe have the masses that they do; the best we’d be able to say is, “They just do.”

So I’m hopeful that they don’t find only the Higgs, because if they do, we could be living through the last hurrah of particle physics, and there’s too much that we still need to know! Here’s hoping…

I haven’t seen anything in any of the press releases commenting on whether this nightmare scenario is true or not.

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