To Higgs or not to Higgs – and who owns the information?

Science news and the blogosphere are buzzing since Peter Woit, a mathematician at Columbia who is running a quite popular, alas somewhat controversial blog about particle physics, announced 4 days ago that:

Reliable rumors couldn’t wait, and they indicate that the experiments are seeing much the same thing as last year in this year’s new data: strong hints of a Higgs around 125 GeV. The main channel investigated is the gamma-gamma channel where they are each seeing about a 4 sigma signal.

Given that this were true, the previous shaky evidence for the Higgs boson, a theoretically predicted, but so far undiscovered particle of high importance for the standard model of physics, would have become much less shaky now, and the LHC collaborations would probably be a good step closer towards an official discovery of the Higgs and a pretty certain Nobel price in physics.

Still, the guys at LHC are far from amused about this announcement, for reasons of data analysis, but in particular because they wanted to keep control of the information. And not without reasons: a premature announcement can distort the analysis and the following scientific presentation as well as embarrass the collaboration and confuse the public. And they may have the recent case of Opera experiment in mind, where the leaders of the collaboration were harshly (but I think somewhat unjustly) criticized for going public too early.

But is it right to hold the information back? Matt Strassler has an excellent blog post explaining all the backgrounds of the current case, with a long discussion between him and Peter Woit about the legitimation for leaking this information.

UPDATE 2.7.: On the verge of the official Higgs discovery, the people at Tevatron have scraped all their latest data together, which resulted in the announcement of a 2.9 sigma signal today. More historical announcements, however, will probably be made at a CERN press conference on the 4th and some following dates. Some additional nice background from vixra here and here and from Matt Strassler here.

3 thoughts on “To Higgs or not to Higgs – and who owns the information?

  1. Pingback: Statistical analysis with blinded data – a way to go for ecology? « theoretical ecology

  2. Yes, interesting, but right now it’s a guessing game (although many people are rather sure that the Higgs has shown itself to our potent probing.) Well, as Dirty Higgsy said:

    I know what you’re thinking: “Did we find five sigma, or only four?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is the LHC, the most powerful collider in the world, and would blow your mind clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well do you, punk?


  3. Pingback: Higgs discovery (practically) official « theoretical ecology

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