Higgs or No Higgs ? A Fortunate Analogy
    By Tommaso Dorigo | August 3rd 2011 07:36 AM | 48 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Tommaso

    I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson...

    View Tommaso's Profile
    I like to think at this blog as a place where both full outsiders and highly knowledgeable insiders coexist and exchange information. I know I often err on the side of producing posts which are unintelligible to most outsiders, but at least you have to acknowledge that I try hard to make my pieces at least accessible in their introductory part. Anyway, this is a preamble to say that today I am happy to be able to post a quite nice analogy for outsiders, one which will hopefully explain why we high-energy experimentalists are equally thrilled at the prospects of finding a Higgs boson, or not finding one!

    The analogy was conceived by Eilam Gross in discussions with his colleagues. Eilam is a competitor from the ATLAS experiment (I work in CMS); but Eilam and I are also co-workers, in a way, since as selected members of the respective Statistics Committees of the two experiments, we participate in highly interesting and educative joint sessions, where we try to converge to a common statistics language and practice at CERN.

    Get aboard the Higgs Car:
    So, the idea is the following: imagine a rocket or even a car as an analogy to the SM. The car is moving very fast and smooth. We (experimental physicists) wonder how it runs. We come up with one major prediction: it must have a first class engine. That is our Higgs Boson. 

    So we chase the car with our test vehicle (accelerator) in order to examine it. However the car moves very fast, so we need to increase our test vehicle speed (energy). As we get closer, the Higgs car is trying to increase its speed, but at one point we finally catch up.  And then we are sure when examining it while running that it has an engine. 

    So we either find the engine or alas.... No fancy engine!  No nothing: the SM car is running full speed and there is no engine inside. At least not one that we are familiar with. Isn't that even more interesting then finding an engine, as fancy as it is ? The wonder of all wonders: a car is moving smoothly but there is no engine inside.  So how does it move?
    I think this is a simple and nice explanation of what we are currently doing at the LHC, and why the 95% upper limits on the Higgs boson cross section are to us just as interesting as anybody else's fancy 2-sigmaish bump in a mass distribution.

    Thanks Eilam for the contribution to this blog... And if you fancy it, be sure to accept an invitation to a guest post on a topic of your choice here!



    A quick statistics question on the usual way of presenting the Higgs search

    If you look at enough possible Higgs mass points on a single graph wouldn't you expect to get "2 sigma signals" by pure chance? Or are the data points stringly correlated ?

    I guess i don't understand what "2 sigma" means when the search is over many possible mass points,


    Hi Paul,

    yes, of course. This is called "Look elsewhere effect" and it is in fact to be taken into account when quoting a p-value for a wide-mass-range search.

    Please see


    Well, probably the SM rocket simply coasts in outer space - no need for an engine, just inertia ;-)

    I am sorry about being a contrarian, but I cannot see how a well-respected, highly-trained theoretical physicists would be equally thrilled at "finding no engine" as compared with "finding an engine."
    More than $12 billion dollars and many careers have been spend looking for the Higgs. Failure to find the Higgs is only exciting if theoreticians have in their minds a paradigm shift that would explain the phenomena that the Higgs particle was supposed to explain in the first place. Facing, believing in and finally accepting a new paradigm that will replace the old respect paradigm is not an easy matter. To ask highly trained and venerated scientists to willingly accept a a new paradigm that will make the old paradigm that they have worked on for years obsolete is asking too much of human nature. I do not believe in the Higgs because I do not believe in the dark matter. If the Higgs were found this would give credence to the dark matter hypothesis. My $300 experiments show that the dark matter idea is unnecessary (superfluous). All I have found with the highly trained and respected scientists who frequent these pages when I have gotten them to go to my site is either silence or some reference to me as a crackpot. My experiments lend credence to the idea that the photon (not the graviton) mediates the force of gravitation. Does this idea excite you? When you go to my sight and look at my experiments the first thing you will think is how preposterous that light could be attractive or why has not some highly trained and respected scientist explored this idea before.


    You say:
    ... I cannot see how a well-respected, highly-trained theoretical physicists would be equally thrilled at "finding no engine" as compared with "finding an engine."
    Unfortunately, this only betrays your own lack of understanding of the nature of theoretical physicists.  ;)

    Have you ever read any of the writings of Richard P. Feynman, intended for lay readers?  He pointed out, much as the author here has, many times, that it is often more interesting to find what one doesn't expect, than to find what one expects.

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

    "My experiments lend credence to the idea that the photon (not the graviton) mediates the force of gravitation"

    This statement is readily falsified by basic experiments of classical optics. Unlike gravitational fields of General Relativity, electromagnetic waves in vacuum do not interact with each other. If they would, interference and diffraction patterns would certainly deviate from has been known and recorded for centuries.



    Congratulations! I support you because we have a similar point of view on the Higgs and the FANTASIA of the actual Paradigm. Regarding the New Paradigm we are not in the same line. We support that Autodynamics, for short, by Dr. Carezani, is the actual solution to a New Paradigm in Physics-Cosmology and will be the 21 century and beyond.
    See our Blog in Google where there are 47 papers on all important matters on Physics-Cosmology.

    Lucy Haye Ph. D.
    SAA’s representative

    I recall a number of commentators suggesting that the LHC *had* to find new physics because various SM predictions break down at the LHC's energy range.

    Tomasso can you elaborate on that? I would have thought that by now the experiments would have some evidence of what happens in this not-predictable energy range.

    I think the worst case is that LHC find Higgs at 140GeV, and then nothing else, even runing at it's full power. No supersymmetric, no extra dimension, nothing, only Higgs...

    But if you never catch the engine you don't know it is there. So you would need to speed up. Is it worth the money? And is it possible?

    QM tells that you interact by measuring the engine, not chasing it.

    According to Christoph Schiller, the car moves because in quantum mechanics there is a least possible action, h-bar :
    ⊳ In nature, actions smaller than ħ = 1.06 ⋅ 10−34 Js are not observed.

    This means that the so called "quantons" always move.
    U would do well to read his work Mr Dorigo.

    It is utterly unclear what you are trying to convey here . Do you care to explain?

    "In physics – as in the theatre – action is a measure of the change occurring in a system.
    Therefore, a minimum action implies that there is a minimum change in nature.Thus the
    quantumof action would perhaps be better named the quantum of change. If we compare
    two observations, there will always be change between them"

    Cristoph Schiller, Motion mountain volume 2.

    Sorry, your citation is still confusing.

    How does this metaphorical interpretation of the action concept in Quantum Mechanics relate the Higgs boson and the analogy discussed in this post?

    i guess i don't understand what the higgs car concept means.

    "i guess i don't understand what the higgs car concept means."

    I do not wish to sound offensive, but what puzzles me is that you are bringing up something completely unrelated to the topic discussed here without grasping first what this post is all about.

    How about....

    Imagine a black-box machine that fell off a truck passing by the university a few years ago. No-one has managed to open it. However, it does have a connector for a text terminal and also an "at least 220V/12A" power plug, so we are all set to find out more about it!

    We connect a terminal device and are greeted with a simple editor. It allows one to write and run little programs, aka "test cases", to confirm or deny some hypotheses one might have about the machine's inner workings. There is one catch: Some "test cases" are rejected outright by the machine, it demands that we apply more power to its power plug for these! Unfortunately the university budget is limited and even so, the city's gas turbines can only deliver so much power. But one should not let oneself be discouraged!

    We have been hard at work submitting ever more complicated test cases and so far found that the computer apparently manages some kind of "fields" in a 4-D manifold with a Minkowsky pseudo-metric [it's all very elegant though hard to visualize; some undergraduates were bewildered]. A generalized probability calculus in infinite-dimensional Hilbert spaces using complex numbers is used to describe "states" [this caused some members of the faculty to storm out red-faced, protesting that all good machine states should be "classical", eliciting shrugs and sneering from the young'uns].

    We have gained great confidence that the machine does not obey arbitrary principles [a collation of cooking rules] but that its inner workings can be derived from only a few mathematical, even geometrical, principles. We insist on keeping these principles consistent [we don't want to encounter 2+1=4 anywhere], and so far the machine does not give any indication that it would say yes given anything like the test case "2+1=4?"]

    The consensus idea about what the machine actually does leads us to a test case saying "a Higgs boson exists below ~5TeV", with very little wiggle room - if the answer is "no", then this means that the machine may be doing something else than what we thought. Maybe something else entirely. The power supply is now good enough that the machine accepts that test case. Enter is pressed...

    This statement is readily falsified by basic experiments of classical optics. "
    Well, so what? There is a crisis going on in physics and you and your fellow bloggers can't even recognize it. What good are all these platitudes about how wonderful it is not to have the most popular theory not confirmed. They do not help us recognize "something stinks in Denmark". The Xenon 100 cannot find the dark matter and neither can the LHC. This is a strong indication that the dark matter particle is just like the aether that could never be found. The failure to find the aether put us in a crisis in thinking. We had to adopt the unexpected and unfamiliar idea that when a particle is at high velocity, time dilates and length contracts.
    My experiments offer a way a way out of the crisis which nobody recognizes. The photon is the most ubiquitous particle in the universe. Unlike the graviton, that everyone believes in and no one has found , its presence is easily observed. Photons are constantly being interchanged between gravitationally bound bodies such as galaxies, clusters and solar systems. There is a smattering of experiments indicating the that the photon is only repulsive. From 1666 scientists have believed that it is the mass of a body that attracts other bodies or warps the space around it. This notion led us to never seriously question the idea that a photon can only be repulsive. If my results that photons in certain conditions can be attractive are ever replicated, they will offer us a close-to-experience way to comprehend how astrophysical bodies can become gravitationally bound.

    May I propose that the Higgs has NO MASS? and a slight different character than we thought. see: 3-Dimensional String based alternative particle model.
    If its string based my friend its based on point like objects and those does not exist in nature, thus spoketh Cristoph Schiller in motion mountain volume 6.

    If you had activated the link I gave, then you would have seen the next text: In particle physics it is an interesting challenge to postulate that the FORM and structure of elementary particles is the origin of different FUNCTIONS of these particles. In this paper we present a possible solution based on complex 3-D ring shaped particles, which are equipped with three point like hinges and one splitting point, all four points divided equally over the ring surface. The 3-D ring itself is postulated to represent the “Virgin Mother” of all other particles and is coined Higgs particle, supplied with the 3-hinges coded (OOO).
    Dear CSf ... you'd better be informed what you are talking about. You're hardly doing justice to Christoph Schillers work with your rantings :-(

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Is the statement below accurate (one I just made up and put in the box to make it look more important):
    The Higgs boson would provide mass to the W+, W-, and the Z. The Higgs mechanism was formulated independent of work on general relativity. Since the Higgs boson is spin 0 and massive, there is no direct relationship to the graviton, massless spin 2 mediator of gravity.
    My sense from the outside is that Higgs hunters hunt Higgs, but don't have much to say about general relativity. Maybe there is a sub-sub-species of physicists that do discuss this issue. If so, please point them out to me.

    Your statement about the Higgs is mostly correct.  However, the Higgs mechanism (that also results in a massive particle, as a byproduct, called the Higgs particle) is also responsible for the masses of all the Fermions, like the quarks and leptons.

    Furthermore, the Higgs particle need not be spin 0, a scalar.  That's just the simplest model of the Higgs mechanism.

    However, you are absolutely correct that there is little (if any) connection between the Higgs and General Relativity, other than "explaining" the non-zero inertial rest masses of particles that make up the "massive stuff" of this universe.

    You are also correct in your observation:
    My sense from the outside is that Higgs hunters hunt Higgs, but don't have much to say about general relativity.
    There are, however, "a sub-sub-species of physicists", as you put it, "that do discuss [or, at least, think about] this issue".  Those that are trying, in one way or another, to unify Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity certainly fit this bill.  See, for instance, Super-String theory, and/or Loop Quantum Gravity.  There are others, but they are even less well known.

    Doug Sweetser i know of such a physicist, his name is Cristoph Schiller. Here is an exerpt from motion mountain volume 2, p. 95: "In the following pages we will discover that, just as special relativity is based on amaximum
    speed c, general relativity is based on a maximum force c4/4G or on a maximum
    power c5/4G. We first show that all known experimental data are consistent with these
    limits.Then we find that the maximum force and the maximum power are achieved only
    on insurmountable limit surfaces.
    ⊳ Thesurfaces that realize maximum force (momentum change) ormaximum
    power are called horizons."

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Doug Sweetser i know of such a physicist, his name is Cristoph Schiller.
    How well do you know this Schiller person :-) Go ahead and start a blog on, that is what I have done. There is plenty of material in the Schiller mountain collection. I skimmed through 70 pages of MMv2, seeing only one questionable equation (12). The comment section of a Tommaso blog is not the place to go into a 300+ page book.
    Or just ask Schiller to write here.   People interpreting his stuff is never going to work all that great when the real guy is out there.
    If u could make that happen it would be awesome, even though i doubt a genius of his calibre would bother, given that he haven't used his extensive knowledge of physics to gain easy recognition up to this point. His modus operandi stands in such stark and beautiful contrast to people like Brian Greene and Lisa Randall..
    I would also like to add that i disagree that other people interpreting his stuff now when i lives is a bad thing, considering that he's around to tell people that they are stupid and wrong. It would be nice to have Einstein around for that now but sadly he's dead and has been highjacked. I have no problem being told that i'm wrong by Cristoph Schiller.

    If u could make that happen it would be awesome, even though i doubt a genius of his calibre would bother, given that he haven't used his extensive knowledge of physics to gain easy recognition up to this point. 
    He just signs up and writes if he wants a broad audience to understand his work.   I don't know what 'genius of his calibre would bother' means.  If a Nobel laureate in physics and keen researchers like Tommaso can write here, science outreach is clearly not a 'bother'.   I never heard of Schiller so if you are next going to claim he is oppressed, etc. by Big Science, please save us all some time.
    Well i wasn't going to say that but feel free to create some more strawmen to knock down.

    His modus operandi stands in such stark and beautiful contrast to people like Brian Greene and Lisa Randall.
    I happen to think those are two pretty terrific physicists who do a world of good in their science outreach efforts, so insulting other people to try and puff up someone unknown you happen to like is not a great strategy.
    I suppose you're right. I don't have the energy to start a blog dedicated to this work of art though.

    Like all other grandiose theories of everything (TOE), Schiller's work is much ado about nothing. Stating that the foundation of the Universe consists of spaghetti-type structures at the Planck scale is an ad-hoc and completely unmotivated claim. It is as faulty as the idea that strings, loops, ribbons, twists (and so on) can provide an ultimate understanding of Nature. There are way too many hand-waving arguments in Schiller's work and, although some of his statements may be factually true, his entire framework is put on a very shaky foundation.

    The hype around Schiller's theory is really pathetic.

    Mr Greene is a great pr-guy and a decent writer of science-fiction. He is not a thinker or teacher on anyway near the same level as Mr Schiller. Mr Schiller is the new Mr Feynman.
    And motion mountain has been downloaded a hundred thousand times so its not, you know, completely unknown :).

    Comparing a crackpot with Feynman is beyond hilarious. That Motion Mountain has been downloaded so many times is a sign of our crazy times when bogus claims and publicity stunts are viewed by many laymen as true science...

    Please spare us this spam about Schiller's greatness, it is really depressing...

    amazing ... how one can guess the author's identity by the wording used in his comment ;-)

    Any further uncalled-for nonsense about this C*S* guy and his theories in my threads will be mercilessly disemvoweled.


    How is it possible that a Higgs boson survives in a black hole?

    I have no idea what you are talking about Hannes. In any case a Higgs boson has a lifetime of the order of 10^-23/10^-24 seconds (if its mass is in the most probable range), so what "survival" means is obscure to me.
    If I understand correctly the Higgs boson is the result of an excitation from within an omnipresent Higgs field. Because particles react differently to it they have more or less mass. And it's called a "boson" because of having mass itself (within the calculi about e=mc^2).

    The Higgs boson if it appears finally gives a particle the property of mass. Once it has mass there is gravity and there are gravitons emitted.

    The problem is you will need some kind of interaction inside a black hole to achieve this. A black hole has mass and emits gravitons, so there had to be Higgs bosons before that. Or am I completely a noob in this logic?

    But since time in GR has come to a halt in a BH relative to an outside observer I suppose this "interaction" would have to change also.

    Since you write "In ANY case a Higgs boson has a lifetime of the order of 10^-23/10^-24 seconds" how does this apply to within a black hole?

    Sorry for being ignorant in this matter.

    I do not understand why inside a black hole the interactions that exist outside should cease to exist. A black hole is nothing but the interior of a horizon, it is not like physics is different there. And the BH's mass is the sum of its components, so each component continues to couple to Higgs bosons inside the BH.

    Also take care to note that a boson is not defined by having mass. In fact the simplest example of a boson is the photon, which is exactly massless. Bosons are particles with integer spin, that's all there is to that category. The Higgs has spin zero because it has the quantum numbers of the vacuum, so it is a boson.

    Thanks for taking time for the comment Tommaso.

    I understand that a Higgs boson is determined by having an integer spin (0). The need of having mass is because of the math involved in the Standard Model of elementary particles. Sorry for not choosing my words carefully here, you are an expert.

    What I understand now is that physics inside a black hole are not different from outside the horizon.
    But from an observer outside it seems that inside the event horizon all events happen very slowly.

    I try to understand the Higgs mechanism since it is not clear to me. According to the theory as I understand it, particles will interact with a Higgs field more (or less) strongly than other particles, and therefore have more (or less) mass.

    If there is any kind of interaction it is relative to an observer. We see other events go very slowly inside a black hole. Is the Higgs mechanism not also effected by relativity when it is based on interaction?

    Hi Hannes,
    the Higgs boson does what you say (interacts with massive bodies proportionally to their mass, with differences between bosons and fermions) but it is not the reason why it is introduced in the model.

    The real reason for introducing the Higgs field in the Lagrangian Density of the Standard Model is to mend some divergences arising when you try to compute the scattering amplitudes of vector bosons. By adding Higgs-exchange processes interfering with the normal scattering processes, these become finite. Then, one finds that the inclusion of the Higgs automatically brings mass terms for fermions and massive bosons in the Lagrangian.

    Finally about your question: decay is a process that goes on according to "proper time", that is time as
    measured from an observer in the particle's rest frame. What goes on inside a black hole, I do not know...

    Vladimir Kalitvianski
    "I like to think at this blog as a place where both full outsiders and highly knowledgeable insiders coexist and exchange information."

    If you mean "exchange with their monologues", then it is not that attractive.

    An attractive thing is to exchange with opinions on this or that particular problem. I asked you about the second atomic form-factor - a solution of the usual QM, and you escaped giving your opinion (one-line derivation). You are outside a one-line QM physics, Tommaso.
    Vladimir, you cannot impose your own topics in somebody else's blog, okay ? A blog is not a forum, in that I choose the topics. Occasionally I can allow others to propose topics, or invite guest postings. 

    I think I was polite albeit not that satisfactory with my answers... So I do not feel I did anything wrong.
    Vladimir Kalitvianski
    OK, OK. I do not impose but ask a question. Well, if I am not allowed to ask an active experimental physicist this question, it means something. So I cannot share your enthusiasm here.
    You're not asking a question or it would be related to the actual topic.   Instead, most of your comments center on you and your desire to propose a personal belief.
    Vladimir Kalitvianski
    Hank, belief in what? I did not understand.

    Next, the atomic form-factors describe elastic and inelastic processes, creation of new states, if you like. It is quite related to creation of a new state in SM in question.

    As you may know, Higgs is a theoretical patch of a theoretical construction. It is much more related to "beliefs" and speculations than my simple but strict result. Those who do not understand my result, cannot understand physics. They are in dreams and trips on their own beliefs.