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Fermi Lab May Have Discovered New Particle or Force 226

Posted by samzenpus
from the probably-a-build-up-of-midichlorians dept.
schleprock63 writes "Physicists at Fermi Lab have found a 'suspicious bump' in their data that could indicate they've found a new elementary particle or even a new force of nature. The discovery could 'be the most significant discovery in physics in half a century.' Physicists have ruled out that the particle could be the standard model Higgs boson, but theorize that it could be some new and unexpected version of the Higgs. This discovery comes as the Tevatron is slated to go offline sometime in September."
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Fermi Lab May Have Discovered New Particle or Force

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  • Desertron (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Toe, The (545098) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:11PM (#35736636)

    Still kinda miss the Superconducting Super Collider [wikipedia.org]. Wonder if it could have produced results sooner.

    • It was in Texas, so it was only a matter of time before the anti-science wakos there got to it anyway.
  • by levell (538346) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:23PM (#35736852) Homepage

    It shall henceforth be known as the pleaseExtendOurFunding-ion.

    OK, I jest. On a more serious (but related) note, back in 2000, when the LEP at CERN was shutting down, there were possible "hints" of the Higgs' Boson and pleas to extend the running time (which were ultimately denied so that the LHC would not be delayed).

    • And we never will know what might have come out it...

    • by Phroon (820247)

      It shall henceforth be known as the pleaseExtendOurFunding-ion.

      No it's far too late for something that petty, that day has already passed [fnal.gov]. The Tevatron collider run will not be extended:

      "Unfortunately, the current budgetary climate is very challenging and additional funding has not been identified. Therefore, based in part of the P5 recommendation, operation of the Tevatron will end in FY 2011, as originally scheduled." - W. F. Brinkman; Directior, Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy

      Fiscal ye

    • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @05:23PM (#35738272)
      I give you some slack for the jest - but seriously, that "they are only doing it for the funding" - meme is an insult to every scientist.
    • by hannson (1369413)
      Ever heard of the Oops-Leon?
  • by Rich0 (548339) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:24PM (#35736884) Homepage

    When I read things like "In about 250 times more cases than expected, the total energy of the jets clustered around a value of about 144 billion electron volts" I get nervous.

    This is like saying that in a series of 1M coin tosses the sequence HTTHHTTTTHHTTHHH came up 100x more often than would be expected by chance. Does that mean that any particular sequence of 8 tosses should come up 1/65536th of the time, and this one came up 1/655th of the time, or does it mean that some random sequence of results should come up 100% of the time in a random series of 16 coin tosses, and we happened to pick the random series that came up the most often in that particular set of data?

    If I mine a big set of data against 100 random hypothesis I'll be able to find about 5 that I can show to be true with 95% confidence, despite the fact that there is nothing really going on.

    The real test is to come up with the hypothesis first, then collect the data.

    Now, these guys are probably smart, and hopefully control for this. If you want to test for 100 hypotheses and REALLY have 95% confidence, then you need to target a confidence of 1-0.05^100 for each test - at least that is how I see it (being a complete novice at statistics).

    • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:34PM (#35737008) Homepage
      They did take into account the look-elsewhere effect, as is standard in bump-search type papers. This bump has a 3.2 sigma significance _after_ the look-elsewhere significance reduction and other systematic uncertainties.
    • 10,000 collisions

      expected number of weird collisions ~ 1

      probability of seeing 250 or more weird collisions ~ 1E-1140

      That should be enough to take care of most multiple testing issues.

    • by radtea (464814) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:54PM (#35737210)

      The real test is to come up with the hypothesis first, then collect the data.

      That's not the way the vast majority of science is done. Popper was a philosopher speaking in ignorance (but I repeat myself).

      The challenge for these guys is not in the hypothesis testing, but in the cuts. You have to come up with some set of criteria for selecting "good" events in complex detectors of this kind. There is always a degree of arbitrariness in how you do that, and there have been cases in the past (the so-called 'GSI particle') where people tweaked and tuned multi-dimensional cuts to maximize peaks in the data.

      In the present case it is clear their cuts are physics-based--they are described in the paper--and that the peak structure is consistent with the resolution one would expect (the GSI particle required some very weird physics to make the narrow peak widths plausible.)

      However, the peak is also precisely in the region where their background spectra are varying most rapidly, and this is a huge red flag. It makes them sensitive to any number of minor mis-calibrations. It does NOT mean the phenomenon is not real, but if I had to make a bet on it being physics beyond the standard model or an instrumental artefact, my money would not be on new physics.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Popper was a philosopher speaking in ignorance (but I repeat myself).

        That is a nice ad hominem logical fallacy.

        You may be shocked to learn that the modern scientific method was entirely the invention of philosophers. Many self-proclaimed scientists disagree with this, but that is because they have not also studied history.

      • The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new
        discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny ...' Isaac Asimov

        This event seems to fit that bill well.

        • (Scientific) Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought. - Albert Szent-Györgi
      • This information has been most helpful. I will be a huge contributor to the scientific community. To sum up, if the equipment is mis-calibrated, new discoveries will be made! In my lab, I will now randomly calibrate equipment on a daily basis. I expect to publish several hundred papers just this year on new physics discoveries. I could randomly select from a pool of experiments what I might be able to reveal this year, but that would just be irresponsible science!

        • I probably deserve a "Whoosh!" for this but I'll bite anyway.

          Such a scheme would fail at the reproducibility part of the review process. You have to describe your process in the paper such that someone else can reproduce your results, if they build a correct machine that isn't mis-calibrated and then get a different result, it will then call your paper into question. Pull these shenanigans enough and people will stop publishing you and take a long, hard look at whatever university gave you your degree. Univ

          • "I probably deserve a "Whoosh!" for this but I'll bite anyway."

            The entire post was sarcasm, sorry you had to bite into it. I would like someone to prove my theory correct and they can risk their scientific credentials in the process. OTOH, I don't have any credentials so I'm hardly the one to know how to mis-calibrate expensive scientific equipment.

            • Yeah, I figured it was probably sarcasm, but it actually isn't that far off from the anti-science or just plain science-ignorant positions that some very vocal people tend to take. (oh sci.physics.relativity, I mourne for you.). So I figured on the off chance that I can make at least one anti-science individual reconsider their views, it was worth replying too.

              Trust me, I am much happier that you were posting than sarcastically than if you were a kook who actually believed it and wanted to argue. :)

    • I don't agree with your analogy. Given 16 coin tosses and any length 8 sequence, you'd expect the sequence to appear 8/2^8 = 1/32 of the time. (Simulate it if you don't believe me; proving it is boring statistics.) In general a length k subsequence of a length n sequence of coin tosses appears (n-k)/2^k times. Replace 2 with s if the coin has s sides.

      Anywho, I interpret the bit you quoted as saying "our theory's predicted probability distributions have an expected value for 'energy jet clustering about 144

      • by hedwards (940851)

        The may is really the operative word there, it may be a new force or a new particle or it could just be something that happened. The problem though is that there's very few facilities which are capable of running those sorts of experiments. If they don't get funding it's going to be really tough to test these sorts of things to actually verify them.

        The article unfortunately confounds hypothesis with theory and what the title refers to is a theory that somebody posted to a sight, not one which has been subje

      • by caluml (551744)
        Derren Brown did a TV show based on this. It was called something like The System [google.com]. Well worth watching.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Njoyda Sauce (211180)

      Oblig XKCD: http://xkcd.com/882/ [xkcd.com]

    • by pclminion (145572)

      The real test is to come up with the hypothesis first, then collect the data.

      The hypothesis came first. The hypothesis is, "A cluster of jet events with close energies indicates the presence of a particle with a certain mass" -- this method has been used time and again to detect new particles and is nothing new. This is just another instance of the same. If you take issue with the idea, you're pretty much going against reality because this is how new particles are, and have been, identified.

      You can quibbl

    • by geekoid (135745)

      in order to have a hypothesis, you need to have an observation. This is that observation.

    • "If I mine a big set of data against 100 random hypothesis I'll be able to find about 5 that I can show to be true with 95% confidence, despite the fact that there is nothing really going on."

      they call that psychiatry.

    • > The real test is to come up with the hypothesis first, then collect the data.

      That is exactly what they were doing. Testing the hypothesis that the standard model accurately describes nature. They found it didn't, hence the need to explore it and come up with new hypothesis's to test.

      1) You start out observing something the current theory can't explain.
      2) Come up with a new theory that accurately predicts all experimental results so far, the newly observed effect, and that also predicts something new th

      • by emt377 (610337)

        1) You start out observing something the current theory can't explain.
        2) Come up with a new theory that accurately predicts all experimental results so far, the newly observed effect, and that also predicts something new that has not been tested yet.
        3) Test the new thing that the new theory predicted. If you do observe the new effect, it lends credence to the theory.

        Except, of course, it's a hypothesis until 3 has been repeated a few times by different people; in particular by critics looking to disprove it. After it stand up to this scrutiny and organized efforts to disprove it actually fail, in the process proving it, it becomes a theory. Theory means only theologists will argue against it. But in vernacular use, theory = hypothesis.

  • by durrr (1316311) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:27PM (#35736930)
    Did we finally find the Unstoppable Force?
  • A useful link (Score:5, Informative)

    by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @03:29PM (#35736956) Homepage Journal

    ...to the paper [arxiv.org], as opposed to the commentary by PopSci on the article written by NYT by someone who really didn't know what the hell they were talking about.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And a link to the lecture set to go live in an hour on it:
      http://vms-db-srv.fnal.gov/fmi/xsl/VMS_Site_2/000Return/video/r_livelogicindex.xsl?&-recid=573&-find=
      (posted AC, you dirty karma whore)

      • Re:A useful link (Score:4, Informative)

        by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @04:43PM (#35737800) Homepage Journal

        Nobody views under a 2 any more, so if you want a link to be seen you have to post non-AC. No choice. Too b. noisy with trash talk otherwise. I'd not have seen your link at all if I didn't have a habit of expanding hidden replies on the offchance they're important.

        (And because very few people mod ACs - why bother, it won't alter their karma - important AC posts often vanish into the ether.)

        • very few people mod ACs - why bother, it won't alter their karma

          Uhhh, stroking another Slashdotter's karma isn't the point of moderation.

  • No No No... I'll call it a superfluid... yeah that's sounds cool! Puff Puff Puff!

    Ya new funding, time to go get some Cheetos!

  • Could it be? I mean, just maybe?

    I know it's asking a lot, but science is about repeatable results. Sadly the article does not tell us whether this happened in various different tests or a single test where they simply threw that amount of protons/antiprotons against each other. If the latter, a minimal contamination could explain it all without being the scientific breakthrough of the afternoon.

  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Wednesday April 06, 2011 @05:21PM (#35738244)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heim_theory [wikipedia.org] is an alternate model of particle physics that does a pretty good job of predicting the mass of fundamental particles mathematically.

    The theory also allows for particle states that don't exist in the Standard Model, including a neutral electron and two extra light neutrinos, and many other extra states.

    What's the predicted mass of the neutral electron particle? It's 0.51617049 MeV/c.

  • I hope they have found proof of a possible levity field, that counter balances the gravity filed and will make physics so much more fun and interesting for particle theory.

  • Even without the Trevatron, there are mountains of data to be dug through to find bumps and hills and scratches and wrinkles in the data. They are still finding new things in the data from LEP and from the moon material they brought back from that moon thing. So why bother if it is still online. The LHC will produce even more data and that means we have enough data in the future to play with it to the end of the world. And if not we can always built a larger thing. The device in Swiss/France is an internati

  • i wish there was a way to directly convert electricity into momentum.
  • One is Z' boson [wikipedia.org], another is technicolor model [wikipedia.org].Can some physicist explain, are they the same/related or not?
    • They are not really the same/related, nor are they likely to be correct.

      The Z' proposal is by Dan Hooper, who neglects the fact that CDF has already excluded the possibility of a Z' with a mass below 800 GeV [http://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ex/0602045]. He is also the same guy who, while not being a member of the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope collaboration, used their data to "discover" dark matter not once but twice! I've become extremely skeptical of his work, as he seems excitable and prone to early and il

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