Featured Post

Surreal Higgs Bumps The LHC

Alan Gillis Reports   ¿Es macho el Higgs o no es macho? Did Alexander Calder discover the Higg's boson while inventing the Large Hadron Collider? Well, anything is possible in Quantum mechanics. Physicists at CERN have always been closet Surrealists. Their latest hat trick, Run Rabbit Run, a brand new particle, possibly the one they were looking for. Though it will take more analysis and more experimental data and maybe even a new cleaner very high energy electron-positron collider to find out. The Higgs is an important particle and central to Standard Model physics if it exists. The Higgs has to be nailed or the SM collection of interlocking theories is flawed. Without the Higgs the SM cannot account for the mass of the Universe. Ergo non fiat, no Ferrari in any CERN parking lot. And that's impossible and might start a trend if $10 Billion is not enough to prove anything.

All CERN has for sure is a new particle that looks like a Higg's candidate. And the Higgs may not be fundamental after all, only responsible for a small amount of the mass of the Universe. See the "Higgs Fandango" below.

Chorus from The Rain In Spain ...

“As a layman, I would now say, I think we have it,” said CERN Director-General Rolf-Dieter Heuer (back row 2nd from left, Peter Higgs in front) announcing the preliminary results July 4. “It’s a historic milestone today. I think we can all be proud, all be happy.”

Anyway after 50 years of slaving over hot colliders, you can't blame physicists if they're partying now. It's great for morale and with the whole world watching the party, the applause from enraptured physicists, the Champagne flowing, well it's a relief for any physicist just to be human again.

Then it's the post-collider hangover and maybe we over did it. A heavy particle at 125 GeV or about the mass of an iodine atom looks good in the data but Dr Heuer clarifying "it" as a "fundamental scalar boson"? Sounds like Premature Collider Evacuation Syndrome where circumlocution pops out a Higgs, but with no conclusive evidence for scalar or zero spin from these bosons at the LHC.

The WW decay data channel should tell CERN that the Higgs decays into two W bosons indicating it is the SM Higgs with zero spin, but there is a deficit in this data both in the CMS and ATLAS experiments.

Lots of types of decays happen too and there are other puzzling deficits. Here's the research from ATLAS on what's been discovered in all channels.

There's an odd excess too. The diphoton decay channel for this new boson shows many more photon events than was predicted for the Higgs. Here's the latest diphoton data from ATLAS in pdf.

Higgs? Blasts Into 4 Muons

So it's premature to talk of any Higgs discovery. Maybe we have signals from one of a group of Higgs particles, but not from the Standard Model Higgs. Maybe it's just a new charged particle outside the Higgs group. Or even a composite particle. Two things we know for sure are more research is needed and CERN PR provides more spin than any known particle.

A Simple Higgs Experiment For The LHC

The mysterious Higgs and all from a vacuum too. So why not study the vacuum? CERN already has a space-type vacuum at a space temperature of near absolute zero in its 54 km (27 km x 2) beam pipe system. This heavy Higgs field has to be inside it if it's real. Run the LHC without the protons and see if you can excite the Higgs field with the RF system used to accelerate protons. But CERN does this anyway in any proton run. Both protons and any fields in the vacuum are being accelerated. You could say the data is in. No Higgs field has been excited or accelerated or collided or found. So is there a real Higgs field that exists everywhere? Not at the LHC. No says CERN, that's not how it works:

"Higgs bosons are quantum fluctuations in the Englert-Brout-Higgs field that are visible experimentally only when energy is “injected” into the field. Concentrating the right amount of energy in proton-proton collisions at the LHC excites the Englert-Brout-Higgs field, which resonates at a precise energy corresponding to the mass of the Higgs boson.  The Higgs boson appears momentarily before decaying into other particles that the LHC experiments can measure. Some theories predict the existence of multiple Higgs bosons."

The fundamental Higgs boson decays? So far all big particles discovered at colliders decay. Why? Well the short answer is because they can. That's one answer from Lily Asquith at ATLAS. But maybe these fundamental particles aren't fundamental, but unstable composites from the bottomless pit of collider physics.

Maybe the  E-B-Higgs field is unstable too. Then can CERN kick it with some energy to get a Higgs? Or is there another pathway if it is stable? An electron is stable and an electron field is stable. Do you need to kick the electron field with energy to produce an electron? Unstable particles would have no mother fields.  

What CERN says above, can be translated in another way. CERN strikes a Higgs high C "energy" from its SteinwayLHC that is "injected" into the totally quiet and invisible high C E-B-Higgs field where the energy "resonates" and "excites" the field and out pops an excited real world high C Higgs note that suddenly decays into other minor notes, sometimes 4 bright photons or a trill of mi-mi-mi-mi's etc etc.

Nonsense, as we know the air here is the field that resonates with high C but there are no high Cs in it that pop out. Don't need a collider to prove that at least. In either case, with or without a collider, is there any proof of a Higgs field?

If you don't think a musical analogy works, well CERN started it. Listen to "Higgs" for piano at ATLAS (Bravo!) based on an actual data graph or read more first on data sonification.

Collider Artifacts Of The Universe

Back to work. Nice theory CERN (in quotes above) on how energy (125 GeV) knocks a Higgs out of Higgs Space for us to see, but it is true? Recall the Big Bang in a vacuum? No fields before then and suddenly some super-condensed energy ball the size of an orange explodes, eventually producing everything including the Quantum fields presumably now in Spacetime where everything else is too including the LHC. Unless the LHC is in some hyper-reality because 10,000 physicists concentrate the LHC into a Higgs Player Piano or anything else they agree on just by a collective observer effect you do see in Quantum physics. Which could also be interpreted as a mass delusion like dancing orbs of light over Phoenix and other UFOs the Army always flatly denies. If only the Army reviewed LHC data? Not convincing guys. Call it a night. Your wives are waiting. OK so labcoats are confusing. CERN says 9% of their physicists definitely have larger breasts. See Fabiola over at ATLAS for details.

Shortfalls In CERN's Little Bang Machine

In reality however, the much hyped LHC Big Bang Machine or Little Bang frankly, is supposed to create similar conditions just a very tiny fraction of a second after the first BB explosion. Doesn't seem to be at all that similar. First thing you get is matter particles from high energy explosions that often decay into massless particles.

Blame that on the big Higgs field from the first BB. But then you really can't study the BB with CERN's Little Bang Machine. Fields from the BB are always interfering. Particles with mass seem to appear first and then some decay into particles without mass in these collider experiments. So the real object is not to make CERN PR a real world event, but to tease particles out from BB fields. Then why aren't there a lot of relatively low energy 125 GeV Higgs in all collider data? There aren't, indeed Higgs are extremely rare. Lower power but powerful enough colliders like the former Tevatron at Fermilab (RIP) and the still operating RHIC at Brookhaven should have seen them easily. Why does it take 8000 GeV (8 TeV) to produce a Higgs weighing 125 GeV? Well, there have been mysterious unconfirmed signals from other colliders including CERN's old LEP. But would the old data have been conclusive if it was processed by CERN's mighty computing center? Might have saved a few Billion dollars.

The new Mother Of All Colliders at CERN uses a sledge hammer to smash a mosquito to get one Higgs. Sorry, but CERN used to say they were smashing proton mosquitos together to make high energy physics look modest, familiar and safe.

Well CERN protons are heavy. When a proton at rest of 1 GeV (1 billion electron volts) is accelerated near light speed that adds a lot of mass. In the Higgs experiment CERN was using 4 TeV protons (4 trillion electron volts) meaning each proton punched 4,000 times above its rest mass weight for a collision energy of 8 TeV from just 2 protons. With on average 27 very very near simultaneous head-on collisions/explosions per 2 beam bunches crossing for collisions near twice the speed of light in a very tiny space, you get fireballs that explode. This isn't early days atom smashing. Though there is a lot of smashing due to focusing difficulties.

Millions of other collisions going on at the same time are off center elastic types, and these protons can smash each other to bits. What happens is already well known and this data noise is filtered and deleted. On a good day any of the 4 main experiments can achieve 100 million events each or more per second. But nearly all the data is noisy elastic collisions and so is discarded. Only interesting primary events are recorded for study.

Even so, there are mountains of interesting data that rush out so fast, the events have to be computer modeled if we want to see anything remotely like the original events. So it's complex software and vast computing power, that gives CERN its images and graphs and they are really only simplified schematics of strange but real events. An abstract of abstract events. How accurate are they? As good as the software, as clean as the original signals flowing through miles of fiber optics and copper wire and thousands of cores ganged together.

If you're a pro photographer working with RAW files and converters and then processing and enhancing images with various other software packages always being updated, you get the idea. No real definitive image of reality, just interesting versions. And if you didn't take the original shot yourself of something you've never seen with the shutter set to near light speed, capturing the very very insanely small, what is the image supposed to look like? What are we studying here?

Safety First But First The Higgs

In 2 years the LHC should reach its design objective of 14 TeV collisions a little later than planned. Hot on the trail of the Higgs on a giddy July 4th, everything else can wait. A year-long shutdown of the LHC for safety retrofits including more tinkering with weak magnets, has been delayed again, now for 3 months more, so as not to stop the LHC before Spring 2013. Fine except more safety systems after the $40 Million accident of 2008, were recommended and promised by CERN. Some safety modifications were made, and are working. But CERN is driving the collider hard, 24 hours a day.

Imagine an all electric Ferrari with an electrical short like last time. Imagine the mechanic says the liquid helium rad could still blow like last time. You want to go with a few tiny--don't mess with the collider--dimwit relief valves? You twist out some manometers for that? You need hundreds more of those in all 8 Sectors. Big ones are better remember? Gimme the big toot-toot ones you engineers said after the boom-boom-boom, when everything has got to be cooled down as cold as space. If not then it's boom-boom-boom again. This is a 10 Billion Dollar Machine. Safety first you say or gimme-dat Higgs?

As any old hand from the days of the Tevatron will tell you, every relief valve is a big problem. They leak all the time. And they blow all the time when helium pressure fluctuates as it does. And then beams dump and Cryogenic Havoc!

Could that be why CERN avoided installing them everywhere they should have before Catastrophic 2008? Nevermind, now we need them. A few tiny ones will do or maybe no collider for years. Safety, or as they might say in Collider Safety Committee meetings post-2008, Gentlemen we have a solution. Démarrons!

Vraiment? Well so far so good, but to get an idea what power one proton beam has at its eventual 7 TeV, imagine a Subaru travelling at 1712 kilometers per hour around the 27 km LHC ring tunnel. Then a second Subaru like the first but travelling in the opposite direction. All this from a little cc vial of hydrogen gas that's had its electrons stripped from its protons. 

Fortunately it's very difficult to collide protons head-on. From a pokey though much celebrated start, the LHC is now blazing. CERN keeps working up the numbers, hoping that at full power and luminosity it can get 600 million with hopes of a billion collisions per second. Though that's still a tiny fraction of the protons per beam. Yet if CERN loses control these beams can melt near a metric tonne of copper cooled to 2 degrees Kelvin (LHC beam vacuum is at 1.9 K) in a flash.  Or burn holes right through the collider and spill  liquid helium as instantly expanding cold gas that blows safety doors off their hinges. The LHC spilled tonnes of helium in the 2008 accident but due to other causes. Lost beams in a collider or runaway beams have happened before. A runaway beam of about 1 TeV at the Tevatron did cause major damage in 2003. See my article Major Failures At The Tevatron that also covers 1200 faulty relief valves.

Bottomless Pit Collider Physics

To return to what the LHC is for really. Evidently not a Big Bang Machine. No Big Bang yet, we're hoping. Not really a scalable model for the Big Bang either as BB fields distort experimental data. No way of extracting Big Bang data from a dingbat Little Bang Collider relying on Artificial Conditions that did not exist at the time of the Big Bang, like near light speed proton beams colliding head on in gigantic magnetic fields. American Baseball might be similar to English Cricket if you're a moron. So what kind of experiment is the LHC geared to?

Producing particles which it does. With more energy available than any other collider, then maybe new heavier particles. But perhaps this mania for the discovery of particles that need to be produced in colliders to be identified, as they cannot be found elsewhere in the real Universe, is an open-ended search that could produce an untold number of new particles that can exist temporarily in colliders and maybe exist elsewhere. Or don't exist elsewhere and may never have existed except inside rarefied and artificial environments like these gigantic fusion reactors that make them inside gigantic magnetic fields that CERN simply and modestly calls Detectors like CMS and ATLAS at the LHC.

If experiments are open-ended sooner or later the LHC could make dangerous collider objects like theoretically possible micro black holes. So far no experimental data show any being produced, but the race for higher and higher energy collisions at the LHC goes on. Up another big notch now from 3.5 TeV per proton beam to 4 TeV for collisions at 8 TeV and eventually to 14 TeV and that's Tera or Trillion electron Volts.

Proof positive of the Higgs is the main advertised event. But equally welcome to String theorists in the majority at CERN, are mBH from the LHC as Black Hole Factory, no longer advertised. Probable proof then of String theory and its extra dimensions and a chance to study elusive black holes, a quantum mechanical gold mine and a possible alternate for the Big Bang.

The LHC Demonstrates Einstein At Least

Waait a minute. Isn't something obvious going on at the LHC? About as simple as OxyClean on TV. Mysterious Quantum fields hiding in a vacuum are not needed to produce a Higgs or anything else. Just watch the LHC. Concentrate tremendous energies into a teeny bit of space and matter erupts from energy. The original Energy is transformed.

Happens all the time at the LHC. Isn't that what Einstein more or less implied with E=MC^2 ?

Do we even need a Higgs?

The Higgs Fandango 

Sure a particle might make sense inside a theory especially that partially predicts it, but is that why it's there? Can't the same particle fit into a better theory no one has invented yet, that explains that Theory H is suspect, because Particle H is really Particle Y which may be the case with the new Higgs Candidate. Theory H also doesn't predict the Higgs mass so any new boson lurking in the future with Spin0 might be the Higgs. The spectacular Higgs field is even stranger, everywhere, but nowhere we can find it. Thinking about mass for a minute, how does it account for the mass of an astronaut on the moon, one sixth of what it is on earth? Aha! Well physicists and CERN can answer that but don't often in all the brouhaha about the Higgs. Yes, you guessed it. There are other more important forces and the Higgs only accounts for a small amount of mass, like 1% of your body weight.

That's what they say at CERN behind closed doors. Gian Francesco Giudice, a CERN physicist, mentions it in his new book, A Zeptospace Odyssey: A Journey into the Physics of the LHC. Though you'll have to dig deep pp173-175.

"... the Higgs sector is rather arbitrary, and its form is not dictated by any deep fundamental principle. For this reason its structure looks frighteningly ad-hoc". Then he drops the other shoe, "It is sometimes said that the discovery of the Higgs boson will explain the mystery of the origin of mass. This statement requires a good deal of qualification.” And goes on to say, “In summary, the Higgs mechanism accounts for about 1 per cent of the mass of ordinary matter, and for only 0.2 per cent of the mass of the universe. This is not nearly enough to justify the claim of explaining the origin of mass.”
I think I just heard an explosion at Building 40, is it? From the CERN PR Machine.

The fundamental Higgs is not as important as advertised. So why fill the Universe with a Higgs field that doesn't do very much? Would CERN do that even if it could?

No, it's just not simple and elegant enough. Not Premium Grade A Physics.

Then why the Higgs circus at CERN? Why all this categorical rubbish about the importance of the Higgs? Sounds like stamp collecting for physicists, the rare penny black Higgs, but there's a serious Nobel on the horizon and more funding, certainly. In the end it's the not very likely and in basic energy terms very expensive Higgs field with little effect on the cosmos, with the very big question of gravity, unresolved.

The Higgs Key To Gravity? H to 4e

Unless the Higgs is really a graviton and in that case it can also account for the missing 1%, plus all the mass in the Universe which then also happens to be relative. Then we have an astonishing discovery and Alan Gillis should get the Nobel.

Nevermind, CERN Like Any Housewife Wants More

Let's face it Higgs are great but what every String theorist wants is funding and a real mBH for a thesis or a knock'em dead paper. In this Brave New World finally all String theorists are proved exactly right, and that's most physicists at the LHC. Except what would mBH do? Decay says Hawking and CERN. Or you can't produce mBH says CERN at the rock bottom On Sale Now new low power LHC, confidently invoking Einstein to cool down earlier PR and excited String theorists. Other worst case scenarios aren't taken seriously as real risks.

Anything new is interesting too. Some strange particles or collider objects may have been already created by colliders. If you don't know what to look for, you might miss them entirely. Always a career risk, but there are always more particles.

If the subdetectors in the big Detectors aren't specific enough to unknown particles or the magnetic fields aren't strong enough for containment, you could lose particles you never even dreamed of. Or maybe some physicists fast asleep have found Mt Blanc closed due to strange matter "tomato paste", leaving CERN ski teams baffled. We don't really know if it's strange matter yet.

CERN has built a CASTOR detector hitched to CMS for not expected but possible events, just in case. Then the unexpected can be familiar like a bus and yet knock you down, going the wrong way down a one-way street. Unexpected Symmetry breaking if you aren't looking both ways. Or something totally unexpected as we don't yet have an infinite number of theories to cover everything happening and anything can happen in Quantum mechanics.

No one wants that many theories of course, just one Theory of Everything that includes the big fields outside, like the gravity of the Universe and now theoretical dark energy and dark matter.

Or on the quest for ToE, have physicists simply reached the end of their mindset? Now padding reality with theories and inventing collider particles to prove them? Maybe it's as simple as going off on the wrong foot, in the wrong direction. Going into the maze that has no end, when maybe you should have stopped at the Starbucks first and had a double slim latte on ghiaccio with Amaretto and biscotti.

Italians are sensible. Neutrinos travel faster than light when they jump from CERN Geneva to Gran Sasso Italy and they make better and cheaper lattes. You would too if you were an Italian Neutrino working for CERN who just passed through a paper stupido cup of espresso americano from one of CERN's autocuppa machinas. But Slim in Italia, non subis est.

The LHC is all about human ambition and imagination like other extreme sports. With no more Everests to climb, there's the power of the surreal to conquer. Build a new fantastic Everest and climb it. And take the world with you.

Except the Maya didn't bring an end to the Long Count and all Long Counts, but CERN could, on or before December 21, 2012. Or after, if the Maya got it wrong. Time at CERN might be wrong too measured in bizarre units of 1 trillion collision events, but interesting as a proof of elastic time that might be real. So how many more Inverse Femtobarns to go you guys?

Back To Square One 

The Maya would be impressed with the magic of the LHC.
Is this your temple? What are you doing? You don't know yet!

In the old Mayan days, the stars told them. Outside on a clear night in Spacetime.

--Alan Gillis