The Rumored Rumor Had Been Rumored Before
    By Tommaso Dorigo | July 13th 2010 01:09 PM | 50 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...

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    Funny. While dozens of online media are abuzz with the (non)-news, and while Fermilab Today tweets that there is no Higgs in store for us and a blogger in search of fame is just spreading unconfirmed voices which have no foundation, Lubos Motl over at the Reference Frame gets more detailed rumors on the same thing, and that does make things a bit more interesting.

    Even more funny is to know that exactly a month ago yours truly discussed a new CDF result on MSSM Higgs bosons which showed a deviation of over two standard deviations, explainable in terms of a Higgs boson with mass of about 150 GeV. That signal is exactly the one that Lubos discusses today. I invite all interested readers to have a look at my post of a month ago, because there I do describe the physics and the CDF analysis quite clearly and in detail.

    But rather than funny, what is really enjoyable is to see how things repeat themselves. Almost exactly THREE years ago, the same rumor was started by a comment on my former blog, where a anonymous reader speculated that DZERO was seeing an excess of the same signature in their data. The rumor made it to several important newspapers, including the New York Times, but later boiled down to nothing: DZERO did not publish the tentative signal.

    Below is a figure from the recently published CDF analysis, which as I mentioned above is discussed in detail in my post of 28 days ago. The tentative Higgs signal is in red.

    Of course, whether the rumor is based on an extension of that analysis in CDF, or whether it comes from a twin search performed by DZERO, we do not know yet. However, we will probably get to know in three days, when seminars are foreseen at the Tevatron on the new Higgs searches.

    Note that if DZERO were to see a similar signal as the one above, things would really grow interesting. For it would be an independent "confirmation". Of course, as long as we discuss 2-sigmaish excesses, of the kind shown in the figure above, people who know better like you and me remain quite calm and shrug shoulders. For such a deviation to be interesting it would really require to be at 5-sigma level, because it is very hard to believe that backgrounds have been modeled to the accuracy needed to exclude some non-Gaussian tails here or there. But this would be a complicated discussion, which belongs elsewhere. If you want my opinion, however, here it is: it is just a summer fluke.


    Oh, I see, too bad I couldn't keep up with all the rumors you have described in the past. You must have described even most rumors by the Fermilab janitors. ;-)

    While I say that 1/2 of the 3-sigma signals are flukes, I actually don't believe that it's too easy to produce them so systematically, and if too many of them randomly start to paint a certain picture, the picture has a chance to be valid.

    So how sure that you recent "light Higgs rumor" is actually a different one than the bottom-Higgs tan(beta) rumor? I think that your "light Higgs" is sufficiently vague that it could be the same thing although 150 GeV is not what I would call light - it would have to be the other team haha.

    Recall that the D0 CP-violating asymmetry became an official result. I have some doubts about the objectivity of the final decisions what is noise and what appears on, among other places.

    "While I say that 1/2 of the 3-sigma signals are flukes, I actually don't believe that it's too easy to produce them so systematically, and if too many of them randomly start to paint a certain picture, the picture has a chance to be valid."

    I am happy to see that even stubborn men can learn :)

    Its interesting that the LHC has not been doing any physics for the past 3-4 days, but instead is working on "machine development." They were up to over 780 bunches with 50 ns spacings last week and now they are doing machine development with <10 bunches. I also read CMS had not confirmed the "suspected" Higgs boson peak, which was 30x expectations.

    This is speculation, but its starting to sound a lot like the 30x resonance is an artifact of the machine and the LHC folks are working fevorously to isolate & correct it. Wouldn't it be a dissappointment if more than a year's worth of LHC data is confounded with an machine artifact that is 30 times larger than expected signals of interest?

    Hi envoier,

    wrong thread (this should belong to the discussion about this other rumor). But anyway, the schedule of the LHC has nothing to do with what the experiments do or don't do... We are past the times of the Rubbias who could waive their arms and pound their fists until everybody did what he liked.

    In any case the "30x resonance" is not an artifact of the machine, but a simple artifact of statistics.


    Regardless of what Carlos or Andre may have done in the past, if a sharp resonance is observed and communicated within the Altas group, then the CMS group cannot replicate the resonance... peer review would ensue upon the analysis that originally posited the Atlas resonance. Upon review by peers, if the larger body finds no flaw in the statistics employed to observe the Atlas resonance... then consensus would build that the problem possibly lies elsewhere.

    Then it would be bad science to continue taking data in light of potential machine issues, regardless of what the previous machine schedule had been. So this scenario is quite different than the rationale behind your Rubbias remark, which I agree is not the way science is managed today.

    Why the haste to discount without thoughtful consideration... because I thought as scientists we must guard against letting our prior perceptions cloud our objectivity regarding the relevance of (potentially) new information?


    So, I didn't realize how much this thing had exploded in the news over the last day (CBC, Telegraph, etc.) and I just want to say, in addition to the nastygram I already sent FL Today (I urge the similarly minded to do the same at, that I think the shit you're getting in the media is AN OUTRAGE.

    Publicizing science news in general and especially high energy physics news, is DESPERATELY needed if the latest abysmal scientific literacy survey results are to be believed. Your post on the rumors you heard about the Higgs was hedged with an ample helping of appropriate skepticism and that your were still accused of fame-whoring by the MSM and FL is just incredible. The shitty way that scientists who choose (usually thanklessly) to be publicizers of their field are treated is shocking to me (see Sagan et. al.) and obviously a significant part of the problem contributing to the pathetic state of scientific understanding in society.

    Please do not stop doing what you do Tommaso. There are many readers out here who, while not being physicists themselves, are deeply fascinated by the details of the latest discoveries and advances in particle physics, and who enormously appreciate the considerable time you take in explaining the latest news in a way that is simultaneously lucid, deep and of substantial breadth. So keep on keepin' on; Fermilab's PR and the nattering nabobs of the stuck-up science journalism world can suck it!

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    I totally agree with Blake (the bits I can understand). I am one of the readers out here, who while not a physicist myself, I am fascinated by the details you are sharing about the latest discoveries and imminent possibilities in particle physics, and I am still trying hard to understand. Please do not change anything you are doing Tommaso. On a slightly different topic I'd like to ask Lubos, what is the missing phrase on his blog that Tommaso references indirectly in this blog? You should always ask the what??? See Quote “Many people have claimed that they can describe the electroweak interactions without any Higgs. But you should always ask the......These probabilities would be given by the exchange of virtual W bosons, Z bosons, and photons. However, probabilities should never exceed 100%.”
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    The title to this article is one worthy of Patrick!

    I won't comment on the article itself, because with particle physics I’m out of my depth.  (What depth?)
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    I heard your blog mentioned last night on the popular US late-night radio show "Coast to Coast AM". They said it was an Italian blogger associated with CERN. I knew it was you immediately though they didn't mention your name.

    At the time my guess was that the host didn't mention your name because he was unsure of pronunciation, but now I see that that may not be the case; he was probably reading the news reports which didn't mention it.

    "new CDF result on MSSM Higgs bosons which showed a deviation of over two standard deviations"

    Dorigo, a stupid question-- if a Higgs signal were found, and the signal happened to correspond to an MSSM model, would this be considered to be evidence for supersymmetry?

    Hi Coin,

    good question. My answer is "yes, but then it would take some other signal to confirm the interpretation".

    huh? Assuming that the whole story is not bullcrap, it would be evidence of a Higgs-like scalar whose coupling to bottom quarks is enhanced w.r.t. the one of the SM Higgs. This could happen in any BSM model with an extended Higgs sector (including the MSSM, of course). I don't think that you can claim "evidence for SUSY" until you see the superpartners. Cheers, Ptrslv72

    I have to say, I was very unimpressed by your previous post which basically admitted that you know nothing but started speculating despite that fact. Your blog may have some value as science outreach (over-all I think it does) but this was not a shining moment of outreach. It was a pointless post about nothing.

    Needless to say, I believe the real blame belongs to the journalists who, despite the fact that your pointless post admitted from the beginning that it was pointless, took a non-story and ran with it. Morons.

    It's rather clear indeed who the only moron in the room is.

    What does that mean? That the journalists who decided to spread Dorigo's comments over the airwaves without actually reading a thing he said in them are NOT morons? Please explain.

    You are famous now... :-)

    Lubos and Tommaso cited in an article together?  What's next, dogs and cats living together?
    I have had a dog living together with a cat. Best friends. Slept together :)

    Nothing would make us all happier than if Lubos lived here with Tommaso too.   But he likes to throw grenades into someone else's foxholes.
    And if he gets a grenade there will follow an explosion :) He don't like getting them :)

    I found on the blog "Physics and Physicists" a reaction to this story. Its main idea is that if one cried wolf too often, then the public loses interest and the person and field (particle physics/Fermilab) loses credibility. Although I appreciate the science outreach that this blog provides and in particular the publicity for Higgs, Tevatron and ICHEP that this article achieved in the entire world, here's this article to see other points of view on the same subject.

    Someone claims to have cured cancer every week.  You can be sure if it actually happens no 'crying wolf' will prevent a cure from getting attention.     Since no one knows what the Higgs may be yet, there is going to be excitement whenever developments happen.

    The LHC has had 5 years of costs overruns and delays and failures so if not for Fermi breaking records every week, there would be a lot less happening.   Fermi is the most credible HEP unit in the world and the researcher who wrote this, and a thousand others, are part of the reason.
    Someone claims to have cured cancer every week.

    As long as we're pointing to an example like this, there's an important difference: people care about a cure to cancer. Very few care about the Higgs boson. I'm annoyed at how the science sections of newspapers are so often about new diets and living over a hundred from studies with sample sizes of 5 or 6 people, but the newspapers are going to keep printing them and the readers are not going to mind that most the previous claims were false, or they're not going to hear the follow-up (effectively picking up a new superstition), or they'll forget.

    What most people know about HEP is that it's an expensive project, interesting to the scientists themselves, but it's not going to cure their grandmother. If a rumor about cancer turns out to be false, they'll say, "Oh, well, try again." If there's a false rumor about HEP (or any other minor mistake, like a breadcrumb in the accelerator), they'll shout, "Why are these boffins getting so much charity from the government for, anyway? Shut them down!" Some will even say that if all goes well. It might even be a good idea to not be too visible between major discoveries.

    We do of course want people to understand what we're doing and why, especially since that's the way in which it will affect their lives: when it changes the way they think about the universe. I've found that people are just as impressed with old results, though, simply because they didn't know about them ("You mean antimater has been discovered already?!?"). Getting publicity about a three-sigma Higgs rumor that turns out to be false is bad publicity when people don't know what a "Higgs" or a "sigma" is. I don't see any way that it gets people more interested in or more knowledgeable about HEP.

    Daniel de França MTd2
    So, we have rumors about 2 higgs. One light and another one at 150 GeV, right?
    Dear Daniel, it seems that Tommaso has at least these two. It's OK for MSSM because it does predict 2 CP-even neutral Higgses.

    It has one light Higgs, below 130 GeV, called lowercase "h", possibly at 115 GeV, and one similar heavier "H" above 130 GeV, possibly 150 GeV. Then there is another neutral CP-odd Higgs, A, and a pair of plus minus charged Higgses.

    The Fermilab Twitter doesn't actually state "there is no Higgs in store for us". It merely provides us with an exercise in repetitious rhetoric :" the rumour is a rumour".

    When combined with the disparaging reference to yourself, it amounts to a classic non-denial denial.

    Also worth noting D0 has only denied finding a "standard model" higgs boson....but then more likely they just did not word things carefully enough (before people get excited)

    The rumor is clearly false as there is no Higgs boson.

    That much should be clear to those who understand the critical role spin plays in particles and particle interactions. A "spin 0 particle" cannot exist let alone give mass to anything.

    "A "spin 0 particle" cannot exist "

    Are you denying that scalar and pseudoscalar mesons exist?


    I am talking about fundamental particles, mesons are composite.

    But nobody knows for sure if Higgs are fundamental or composite particles. This is an open question expected to be hopefully settled by LHC in the few next years.

    "Spring Theorist"? Now there's a theory I could get into! My personal theory is that the world is made of yo-yos.
    Evidence for this theory can be found right here on this web site.

    I don't know whether it was already pointed out by other readers, but there is a potential ethical issue with this rumor mongering.
    You admit that you consider rumors a good thing for HEP because they attract media attention on our field. This means that you admit having an interest in spreading rumors. Hence, any rumor reported by you (or any other HEP professional running a blog) can be legitimately considered suspicious.
    The difference between rumors and news is that the former cannot be verified, by definition; nor "falsified", in the Popperian sense.
    How do we know that this rumor is not an intentional hoax?
    If the rumor eventually disappears, this is not a proof that the rumor was fabricated, because you can easily blame the anonymous source for having been inaccurate, or suggest that it was just a statistical fluke that disappeared with more data, or a plainly wrong analysis result that was corrected during the internal review, or whatever.

    " the rumor eventually disappears, this is not a proof that the rumor was fabricated, because you can easily blame the anonymous source for having been inaccurate, or suggest that it was just a statistical fluke that disappeared with more data, or a plainly wrong analysis result that was corrected during the internal review, or whatever."

    You are accurately describing the trouble with naïve falsificationism, look up the Quine/Duhem thesis. The difference between rumours and news is not that the former cannot be verified, but that they have not been verified yet.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Rumours can take many forms. According to Wikipedia - Quote "A rumor or rumour (see spelling differences), is often viewed as "an unverified account or explanation of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern" (33)[1] However, a review of the research on rumor conducted by Pendleton in 1998 found that research across sociology, psychology, and communication studies had widely varying definitions of rumor.[2] Thus, rumor is a concept that lacks a particular definition in the social sciences. But most theories agree that rumor involves some kind of a statement whose veracity is not quickly or ever confirmed." Personally I like the Killers version
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    Two questions for T Dorigo:

    1) Did you actually talk to any of the journalists who reported on the rumor? Or are they just echoing what you posted without any input from you at all? Did any of them try to get a comment from you?

    2) How do you feel about the animosity from a certain segment of Fermilab (particularly D0)? It seems a little over the top to me, but I do not have an informed view. Is this just bad feelings from the past, or if you could choose to go back, would you do anything differently?

    On (1) I like that a journalist rang up a theoretical physicst (so not an expert on HEP in any sense) who makes quite a good living blogging who said not to believe what you read on the Internet.  I didn't see anyone quote anything from Tommaso not included in his article so they quoted Fermi's PR person or someone with no knowledge at all.
    Who is the theoretical physicist they rang up?

    It should be noted that many theoretical physicists specialize in high energy physics, though I would agree that such a person is not a source for rumors about experimental results.

    There is a tendency to believe I speak ex cathedra for the entire Science 2.0 community when I express a personal opinion, so I won't dwell on any more on it - we may want the fellow to write here some day.  My point was that people who are not experts should not be dismissive until the facts are clear and, as So Was The Rumor More Than Just A Rumor, Or Was It An Honest Rumor?  points out, nothing is clear.
    If you're talking about one of the two persons they quote who "urges caution" is Jon Butterworth, an experimental high energy physicist working with ATLAS.

    Just be glad they did not turn to that expert-at-large, Michio Kaku. In fact all this week, ABC news has been interviewing Michio for his authoritative opinions on the BP oil spill.

    1) I did not talk to anybody.
    2) D0 do not like me because of a couple of episodes in the past. Plus, I think some individuals are just jealous.

    I would not do anything differently. I never disrespected anybody here, nor did I harm Science. That is enough. I have many enemies in HEP now, but my life is better than theirs. That is their penance.

    Interesting that you didnt talk to anyone. Makes the journalists involved seem all that much more crazy to me.

    I don't think you can fairly say at this point that you did not harm science. It is clear you didn't intend to harm it, and I will also say I think it unlikely it will turn out you did, and even that I suspect that even if it were to turn out you did cause some harm, a causal link will undoubtably be impossible to establish anyway.

    I didn't understand the comment about having a better life than your enemies... what did that mean, really?

    I don't think you can fairly say at this point that you did not harm science. 
    I think it is not only fair to say, it is factually the only thing to say.    Fuzzy logic about dark energy and string theory do not harm physics and 3 times a year someone in biology uses the term 'missing link' for a discovery yet the world of science has not collapsed and breakthroughs are still made.

    This is trumped up nonsense about nothing, in some cases by competitors on the Internet and in other cases by competitors in physics - the actual impact of discussing a rumored disclosure in physics is no different than a rumored trade in baseball; people do not think trades stop happening because one of them doesn't happen.
    Hank, your argument is disingenuous. Manufacturing rumors, even if you are up-front about the fact that it is what you are doing, is nothing at all like pushing an idea which may be very speculative, but is not clearly wrong or basless.

    I agree that there is no evidence any harm was done to any science. However, the Tevatron is in an extraordinarily delicate phase of its existence right now, with a huge push (largely by Fermilab) to keep it running longer. Given the LHC's slow start, there is scientific merit to keeping it running, and it is understandable that the people who are devoting weeks of their professional lives to making the case are worried that a media circus about a discovery which turns out to be false could tip the balance against them. And the argument about funding agencies being smarter than that is bull. The US congress has proven it can cancel a big science project on a whim. More than once.

    I understand why you don't see a problem -- your site gets a bunch more hits, happy happy. And the fact that this site promotes science is really great. But have a little sensitivity to the discipline which you "promote to your own benefit" -- I don't know if any damage was done here, I suspect not. But you cannot blame a group of people who are legitimately threatened to try anything to prevent a chance (even if it is very small) that the dream they are working hard to realize gets killed by some irresponsible media fueled by some careless comments here.

    The number of hits the site received due to media exposure of one article compared to (a) the hits the media get inventing hysteria on their own sites and (b) the overall traffic of the site because the content here is just plain better than anywhere else ... is practically not worth discussing.

    I am not sure what you mean when you write "promote to your own benefit" - I spent 7000 hours of my life building this for free, and an ad pays for the servers with the remainder of the money being paid out to writers, so until you do the same thing you can keep your condescending tone.    An anonymous commenter calling anyone who does science outreach here practically for free 'disingenuous' is silly.
    It is disingenuous to make up a straw man argument that doesn't even hold up as an analogy. It's not silly, and that was where the term was applied to you. I stand by it, and the fact that it comes anonymously changes nothing about the validity of the argument.

    I did not mean to be condescending about your work on this site. I went out of my way to praise it as doing good for science, and I am sorry if that did not come through properly.

    Only one thing Anon - this rumor was not "manufactured". I heard two people in two different continents asking me about this possible exciting new Higgs signal at the Tevatron, and I decided that it was worth putting it on air, maybe in the hope that somebody in the know would illuminate me (it has happened in the past).

    No, it was not crafted by me waking up one day. This is just a false statement, and potentially liable to be tried for defamation.

    You read the word "manufactured" differently than I intended it (though I was not clear, as I now see). I did not mean you made it up from thin air, I understand it existed before you wrote about it.

    However, as your original blog post clearly stated, you knew nothing about the rumor, and decided to speculate. That is why I have placed the blame squarely on the media, particularly finding out they did not even attempt to contact you about it beforehand. What your blog post did do was to manufacture a hypothesis about said rumor. (This is not rocket science, you said clearly that it was what you were doing as you wrote the post -- so there was no false advertising I could see anywhere).

    I maintain that this was a mistake on your part, though not a malicious or even grievous one. As I said elsewhere, I believe you do some good in promoting science and HEP. This incident is not a high point there, even if you are guilty of nothing more than (in my opinion) writing a fluff blog entry of essentially no interest to anyone. The fact that it blew up does not seem to be what you intended or even something you welcome. You wrote elsewhere that you were hoping to shake out some details of the rumor. I don't know if it worked or not, but I maintain that while this may be of benefit to you personally, it is not very interesting to the rest of us, and certainly not a good promotion of science. You could have just chopped off the beginning part about the rumor and done an examination of the Higgs limits, which would have even been interesting and maybe informative.

    It's your blog, and you can write whatever you want. If you want to engage in rumor-mongering go ahead. But I think you can understand that there is a certain price to pay in ridicule and dislike from some of your colleagues as a result, particularly the ones currently embroiled in a battle to keep the Tevatron running. Sure, hopefully this will have no effect -- I suspect it is irrelevant. But given the big effort, can you blame them for being worried if there is even a tiny chance it could blow up in their faces?

    Oh Anon, it means that my life is wonderful, while I know that the life of people who get enraged and envious about such things as a blog post is bitter, full of delusions, ups and downs, and psychopathologies.

    Sincerely, I have a very enjoyable life. Take this moment. I am in a hotel room in elafonisos, south of greece, nothing to do but wait for the next round of roasting on one of the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean (and probably on par with the best in the world). For the next three weeks (and a few days more) I will be here, laughing at anything short of a shot on the foot. I have a charming wife, two lovely kids, a job I love, and a blog where I broadcast all of that. Money is more than good. I have no health concern, nor do any of my family members.

    Now take the envious pack that try to shoot me down. Why don't they get a life ?

    Your detractors in HEP are dissing you because they envy your wonderful private life?? Hahahaha that's too funny!

    Reminds me of those miserable string theorists heaping scorn on Garrett Lisi's wonderful Theory of Everything - all because he's a cool dude whose surfing/snowboarding life is so much better than theirs! :)