Two Peaks, Three Bets
    By Tommaso Dorigo | January 3rd 2013 06:03 AM | 5 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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    I am glad to see that the Higgs signal we have discovered last July continues to raise the interest of well-learned laypersons around the world. The confirmation this time comes from the fact that three readers of this blog have decided to challenge my bet that the two signals found by ATLAS in the gamma-gamma and ZZ decay modes, which presently have a discrepant measured mass, are no hint of two distinct resonances, but rather a systematic effect.

    The details of the status of ATLAS measurements of the Higgs boson are in this post, where I originally proposed the bet. I offered up to five $100 bets that the two signals will never make it to a public claim by ATLAS, and will rather be reconciled with the single observed signal of CMS. Here is the stipulation I proposed:

    If, by analyzing larger datasets, either the ATLAS or the CMS experiments will claim strong evidence or discovery (larger than four standard deviations) for two distinct resonances in the 120-130 GeV region in their searches for Higgs-like particles before July 1st, 2015, Tommaso Dorigo will pay $100 to XXX.

    If, on the other hand, within the said time frame no such claim will be made by either ATLAS or CMS or both, XXX will pay $100 to Tommaso Dorigo.

    Conceding the bet will entail a written statement on the blog of Tommaso Dorigo, and the sending of the money through wire transfer or other mean at the request of the winner.

    As you can see, I was really lose both in the requirement of significance (4 sigma being enough, provided that a CERN experiment stands behind the claim), in the time frame (I am willing to wait until July 2015), in the mass window where two states may pop up (even at different places than the two mass measurements currently offered by ATLAS), and in the allowing both CMS or ATLAS to come forth with a public claim.

    Also, I did not specify that one of the two states should decay preferentially to ZZ pairs and the other to gamma-gamma pairs as seen by ATLAS, or anything of the kind: so if a new weird Higgs-like particle, even one decaying to two positive muons, should be published at 129.9 GeV with the first few months worth of 13-TeV data, I will still lose my bet -regardless of the fact that such a thing could in no way have contributed to the presently observed ATLAS signals.

    Currently, as I said, there are three takers: D. South, J. Lea, and C. Prohn. I am not disclosing their full names here, but they should do so themselves by writing a note in the comments thread below to confirm their acceptance of the stipulation.

    Note that two more readers can take the bet (in the by now fixed stipulation above) if they so please, but they must of course provide some guarantee that they will pay if they lose the bet, as two of the three named persons already have done (I am waiting for something from mr. Prohn yet).

    This will be fun! And, as I have noted several times here in the past, placing bets on particle discoveries is a nice way to make physics research more popular.

    Also, I should remind you that I already won a $200 bet with Tony Smith (on the existence of more resonances, a topic similar to the one discussed here), and I am about to win a $250 bet with Gordon Watts (on the discovery of new physics with 10/fb of LHC data), and a $750 bet with Jacques Distler on the same topic. Gordon already conceded the bet, while Jacques is correctly waiting until the end of the stipulated period (one year after the delivery of 10/fb datasets by LHC to the experiments). Ah, by the way: Gordon, you should write a post here about conceding the bet, and pay the sum to the charity I indicated! (Note that only with Gordon did we agree to donate the won amount - I am happy to spend whatever I win in good wine or other mundane activities or goods...)

    So I have been winning bets - but I might be wrong on this one!


    This will be a fun bet. I look forward to the outcome....

    David South
    Emeritus Professor
    School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences
    Auburn University

    I often cite the following to those who believe in the predictions of climate models..... "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard P. Feynman

    Tommaso, I cannot take the bet you propose in this blog entry
    because I agree with you that only one peak will eventually emerge
    in the 120 to 140 GeV range.

    I would be interested in betting $100 that FermiLAT has seen the Higgs
    (see my paper at for my view).
    To make the bet specific, I note that in all the following observations
    only one peak has been observed between 120 GeV and 140 GeV:
    ATLAS Z4l - 123.5
    ATLAS digamma - 126.5
    CMSZ4l - 125.56 GeV
    CMS digamma- 125.56 GeV
    FermiLAT galactic center - 130 GeV
    FermiLAT reprocessed galactic center - 135 GeV
    FermiLAT EarthLimb - 135 GeV

    My bet proposal is that all these peaks turn out to be of
    the same SM Higgs state between 120 and 140 GeV
    after the various experimenters have taken more data
    and done more analysis and comparison of experimental setups.

    The problem with the bet is exact definition of
    "more data ... more analysis ... comparison of experimental setups".

    What do you think would be a fair "exact definition" for such a bet ?


    Dear Tony,

    yes, these things are all interesting and worth speculating (and betting!) on. However, I am not keen to betting on astrophysical sources and signals, because of lack of time to follow the developments as closely as they would need ot be.

    Maybe some other reader of this blog is interested, though.

    Dear Dr Dorigo,
    What you are doing is a danger to public health. Are you prepared for the severe injuries likely to occur if Jacques D. has to swallow his pride?

    Hi GM,

    I doubt it is such a big deal. A bet is a bet - if one were sure of the outcome, one would be either a fool or a dishonest person to wager money. In the first case one would be throwing it away, in the second one would be stealing it. So Jacques will not be embarassed to lose the bet. He will just pay it and move on, I am sure.