14 December 2010

Higgs Search Update

The evidence that there is some unknown particle with a mass in the 120-130 GeV range, which would be consistent with the existence of a Minimal Supersymmetric Model Higgs Boson, while not enough to meet the standards of the particle physics community that it has been discovered, is starting to approach a three sigma level.

Generally, physicists in this field don't take results too seriously until they reach the five sigma level, because there are some many experiments done and a natural tendency to cherry pick odd results, that only results that statistically clear tend to survive the replication process of the scientific method. Also, there are so many candidates for undiscovered fundamental particles in theoretical physics, that a discovery of a particle of this mass does not necessarily mean that it is the much sought after Higgs Boson. More research would be necessary to characterize a particle of this mass even if the existence of a new fundamental particle of this mass is established.

Since lighter Higgs bosons have been ruled out, and a large range of heavier masses for the Higgs boson have also been ruled out, failure to find a Higgs boson in this mass range would be a tremendous blow to supersymmetry, and with it, string theory. All of the most widely suspected extensions of the Standard Model would be ruled out if it doesn't exist in this mass range, so even some less than definitive hints that there may be a new fundamental particle in this mass range are reassuring to the mainstream theoretical physics community.

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