Higgs and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Recently, I watched the documentary Particle Fever at Cine, a local theater here in Athens, GA. (The film is streaming on Netflix also.) It was a great look into the hoard of people at CERN that got the Large Hadron Collider running. It also highlighted the discovery of the Higgs boson, the elementary particle in the Standard Model that gives everything mass. Before the discovery of the Higgs, there were two competing theories: the Standard Model and the Multiverse. The Standard Model expected the Higgs boson to have an energy of about 115 GeV, while the Multiverse theory expected the Higgs boson to have an energy around 140 GeV. The LHC detected a signal at around 125 GeV, right smack dab in the middle. For reasons I don’t understand, the Standard Model won the battle, though many prominent scientists (Brian Greene, Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku, NdGT, to name a few recognizable names) have supported the hypothesis and cashmoney prizes have been given to purveyors of the Multiverse theory (Alan Guth, Andrei Linde, and Alexei Starobinsky).


A simulated Higgs boson signal made by the collision of two proton beams.

Either way—whether you support the Standard Model or the Multiverse—everyone’s happy that the Higgs boson was found. That is, everyone except a team of researchers from the University of Southern Denmark. They’ve come to rain on the parade. In a new paper in Physics Review D, beautifully named “Technicolor Higgs boson in the light of LHC data”, they claim that the signal at 125 GeV could instead be the TC Higgs, the weird cousin of Higgs that was named after his uncle but everyone kind of forgets is there until Christmas when they’re reminded of his tie-dye shirts, sock-filled sandals, and suspiciously bloodshot eyes. The TC Higgs (TC = technicolor) belongs to a model one step past the Standard Model that is actually much less interesting (to us non particle physicists) then the name would lead one to believe. It has something to do with electroweak gauge symmetry breaking and how that makes mass.

“The current data is not precise enough to determine exactly what the particle is. It could be a number of other known particles,” Mads Toudal Frandsen, the PI of the work, said in a press release.

This new analysis doesn’t debunk the Higgs finding, it just politely states that maybe the evidence isn’t as strong as we might think. The 125 GeV signal fits other theories, so maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to jump on the Higgs train. Frandsen hopes more data from the LHC will help distinguish between the Higgs and TC Higgs. The LHC is set to resume research in early 2015, so we’ll have to be on the lookout for new happenings there. Whatever the LHC discovers, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert will be secure in the knowledge that their Nobel Prize comes with a no-takebacksies clause.

Tricked By Astrophysics

I think ScienceDaily has a new algorithm to sort their releases. Not only did the previous post‘s bicycle story show up in my chemistry feed. But now two firm space stories have shown up in my materials feed… both containing the vague word “matter” (i.e. not a good sort term). Both also deal with the fabric of reality, so to speak, so maybe someone out there is just confused what materials science is. But, guess what. I read them anyways. Maybe the mislabeling wasn’t so much a “mis” but more of a “trying to get people to read more topics” labeling.

Like everyone lately, I’ve been interested in astronomy. And Halloween’s gotten me in a spooky mood (my holiday mood has some lag time). So when I read “Universe may face a darker future: Is dark matter being swallowed up by dark energy?” I clicked and then I scrolled and then I read it really fast. Turns out our universe is slowly being consumed by dark energy. At least according to a new report based on observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. In the press release, the PI, David Wands, had something optimistic to note, “If the dark energy is growing and dark matter is evaporating we will end up with a big, empty, boring Universe with almost nothing in it.” Happy Halloween and Merry Christmas.

The next misplaced article is about theoretical research on parallel universes. Typically, it’s assumed that parallel universes don’t interact and that we can never, ever reach them. This puts parallel universes firmly in the theoretical realm (with some Negative Nancys calling it pseudoscience). Now, Howard Wiseman and Michael Hall (no relation) have developed a new idea where parallel universes interact. And not only that. This interaction is the reason for all of quantum mechanics. In addition to this fun bit of theory, Hall says in the release, “We also believe that, in providing a new mental picture of quantum effects, it will be useful in planning experiments to test and exploit quantum phenomena.” Take that, Nancy.

Now, I watched Fringe to the very end and I think it’s safe to say that things didn’t turn out well for the two interacting universes (spoilers!). Though it would be cool to meet my own Walternate, my Jenternent, no I don’t like that so far off to a bad start, Jennalternate, better closer warmer, Jalternate, that’s it.