The SM Rules: Four Bets Won, $1200 Claimed
    By Tommaso Dorigo | July 11th 2012 04:20 AM | 15 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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    The path of the LHC experiments to the successful observation of a Higgs boson has not been the smoothest I could think of, with delays in construction, incidents, and the like; but we are finally there. And now, with over 10/fb of data fully analyzed and presented at ICHEP, we can take stock and draw the "summer 2012" picture on existing and non-existing subnuclear entities, the non-existing ones notably including SUSY particles and other new physics candidates which are periodically evoked by theorists to mend the shortcomings of the standard model.

    The shortcomings of the standard model! Shortcomings? The standard model is an amazing theory! Everything we have been measuring in 45 years of particle physics is in astounding agreement with calculations. Even the only clear departure, the mass of neutrinos, while specifically pointing at something not described in the standard model, remains something which does not affect the solidity of the construction. Sure, the SM is not designed to explain everything (gravity, for instance, or dark matter, to name two things). But what it is meant to explain, it does excellently.

    In particular, a clear non-standard-model signal is nowhere to be found to this day; for sure not in the 10/fb results of the ATLAS and CMS collaborations.

    So, to me this is pay day. If you recall, a full six years ago (September 2006 to be exact) I bet $1000 with Gordon Watts (an experimentalist in ATLAS, who took the bet for $250) and Jacques Distler (a theorist from Texas university, who covered the remaining $750) that no new physics beyond the SM would be claimed by the ATLAS and CMS experiments upon analyzing 10/fb worth of data.

    I claim I have won the bet. I had informal contacts with Gordon already, and he confirms he is going to concede the bet. I am sending an email to Jacques today to get him on board as well.

    Furthermore, I had two bets on with Tony Smith, an ex particle physicist and an aficionado of this blog, for $100 each. I do not recall the exact stipulation of those; I need to dig it out of my mailbox, and will do so when Tony will write a guest post here describing the matter; in any case, I won those two bets as well.

    Tony insists that I also won a bottle of "Strega" (an italian liquor) and wants to send me additional money for that; but I refuse to accept that -I do not drink superalcoholics, and accepting money in its stead appears uncalled for.

    So, that is the status as of today. You will hear more as I get a hold of Jacques. Hopefully each of them will write a guest post here, describing why they took the bets and what they believe the future will bring !


    Hi Tommaso,

    are these 10/fb really "fully analyzed" in every respect? My understanding is that CMS and Atlas for the ICHEP deadline mainly concentrated on the Higgs search with their main focus on the gamma gamma and the four lepton channel. There may be much more in this data ... why not be a bit more patient ?

    Hi Anon,

    in principle you are right. There are many analyses -but crucially, the ones that do not require much luminosity to be carried out- which are still based on fractions of the total available dataset. For searches, ATLAS and CMS pushed their potential to the limit, in order to avoid being scooped by the other experiment. So Higgs searches, as well as dijet resonance searches, or Z' searches, etcetera, are mostly based on the full dataset. Those that aren't, anyway, are based on half the data; and the lack of any evidence whatsoever of new physics there should already tell you that there is no way that a 5-sigma resonance will appear once the remainder of the 2011+2012 data is added.

    That is in a nutshell why Gordon concedes the bet already, and why I think it is a sound thing to do.

    Dear Tommaso,

    I think it is unfair to say that "Everything we have been measuring in 45 years of particle physics is in astounding agreement with calculations": the measurement disagrees with the Standard Model calculations by about 3.4 stdv concerning the Anomalous magnetic moment of the muon!

    Could you elaborate more on that ?


    Hi NC,

    have you asked yourself what is the chance that at least one 3-sigma discrepancy occurs if you measure, say, 100 different fundamental quantities predicted by your theoretical model, if the theoretical model is perfectly correct and if experimental uncertainties are perfectly well sized up ?

    Let me answer that for you. The chance is 1- (1-0.0017)^100, or about 16%.

    In other words, we have measured and tested the SM far too deeply and extensively for a genuine 3-sigma effect to have any serious meaning. The sheer chance that the discrepancy in that one measurement arises by chance (experimental fluctuations or values of nuisance parameters taking improbable values among those estimated) is too large.

    The 5-sigma rule to claim the discovery of something in HEP has also that meaning - cutting away the occasional departure due to the number of places one looks in.

    I don't speak for Gordon, but my bet said, "12 months after collecting 10 fb-1 of data..."

    So you have (slightly less than) a year to go, before you can hope to collect.

    "10. Gordon Watts - September 6, 2006

    Hey. I’ll take the bet. But…

    1) I’ll do only $250. I was going to do the full $1k, but then I realized that I just had a baby. So, no. Maybe I coudl bet $1k if I was a full professor. ;-)

    2) The $250 goes to a charity of your choice. I’ll publically congradulate you, of course (i.e. go on record). If I win I’ll expect you to donate $250 to a charity of your choice.

    3) The time frame isn’t a year. Rather, it is 1 years after ATLAS/CMS get 10 fb-1 each (if I read the plots right they were expecting something like 5 fb-1 or more by the end of 2008 – but this number can be discussed). As you know, the TeV “turned on” on time, but it took forever before we matched the Run I lumi (I almost got burned professionally by that). Further, watching the time lag between CDF/D0 lumi delivered and results makes me think 1 year after delivery is about right.

    What say you?"

    "18. Jacques Distler - September 6, 2006

    the thing is, my bet is not just about theory, but about the standstill we are facing.

    I’m not willing to bet on the prowess of the accelerator physicists. What they do is black magic to me (impressive as all heck, but still black magic).

    So I prefer a reformulation along the lines of Gordon Watts. I would be willing to wager $750 on the proposition that

    Within 12 months of their having accumulated 10 inverse fb of data, ATLAS and/or CMS will announce a 5σ departure from Standard Model predictions.

    Sound good?"

    If I read the bets correctly, both bets would technically have almost a year left, but Watts has bet on a new particle by then while Distler has a five sigma deviation. It's quite possible the diphoton excess has time to grow to five sigma before the shutdown, assuming a full Atlas / CMS combination is done in time.

    Not to be impolite, but I really hope Distler wins this one :)

    I do hope Distler wins too !

    In any case, it is fair to wait for all possible analyses in ATLAS and CMS to unearth whatever they can in this additional year. I think Gordon pays now because he considers it hopeless that we stumble in a 5-sigma discovery in this time frame.

    And anyway, JD, when you said, "year", nobody said anything about *EARTH* years, right? How's the weather on Neptune, by the way?

    He wants the money before the coming stops!

    He wants the money before the coming stops!

    I'm sure Tommaso is privy to all sorts of juicy rumours about pending result from the LHC. If any of those turn out to be true, the XXVI Lepton Photon Conference (2013, SLAC) will be quite exciting.

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    Sorry to be bringing up the same issue, but what is the data at this point that says the particle seen has spin 0 and not say spin 1 or spin 2?  It is relevant to the bet.  I thought that could only be learned from the tau leptons and the b quark channels which sure are not at 5 sigma.
    Spin 1 cannot be if the new particle (Higgs?) really decays in 2 photons.
    It is forbidden by what is usually called the Yang's Theorem.
    So up to now only spin 0 or 2 are possible.

    Indeed - proving that the particle is a NP one is going to be very, very tough. It will take the full powers of the 2015 LHC to do that.

    Dear Tommaso,

    Finally someone who really appreciates the Standard Model as much as I do!

    These days you only hear people say that they want to find deviations from the Standard Model and they get frustrated if they don't (while they could have been heros). It used to be common sense to develop a good theory and then assume this theory is correct until you find an observation that is in disagreement with it.

    By the way I even include gravity as part of the Standard Model. It is the best known force between elementary particles! Negligible!

    We only have to except that the Standard Model does an excellent job given the ingredients. It does not predict the masses and strength of the forces.
    So we should not be surprised that we cannot explain certain (extreme) values and then conclude that we have to alter the theory to get naturalness.

    Also: any new theory that can't explain why there are 3 families of quarks and leptons should not be taken too seriously.

    Finally we have the anomaly cancelation: -1+3#(2/3-1/3)=0 which shows that the Standard Model is rock solid!

    10 inverse femtobarns? Most of the searches after 10/fb haven't been analyzed yet! Just look at the most recent preprints released by ATLAS and CMS, and even the talks in Melbourne: not just some of them but most of them were most recently updated after the 5/fb from 2011 or less. Even if you were using your insider knowledge about CMS, you can't possibly know what's going on in ATLAS.
    Your claims are highly premature. I don't claim that there should be new physics after 10/fb, that's been always very uncertain, but I do think we don't know the answer yet.
    At any rate, it's good to see another financial explanation why the recent CMS paper about the top partners is probably fraudulent: