Craziest Higgs Stories
    By Hank Campbell | July 6th 2012 11:53 AM | 46 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    When I wrote about watching the Higgs discovery, I chided scientists on Twitter for over-reaching regarding what was being said and lauded science journalists for showing some moderation, but that does not mean all journalists could resist being silly.  And it doesn't mean all scientists were over-reaching.

    Italian particle physicist and ATLAS experiment chief Fabiola Gianotti, for example, was doing the opposite and wrote just two weeks ago in an email to the New York Times, "Please do not believe the blogs" because Dr. Peter Woit had info that they were going to release results showing a 4-sigma signal.

    Then on July 4th she slapped up a slide with 5-sigma on it instead.  Technically, she was right - the 4-sigma was wrong - but in spirit she was engaged in some attention-getting gamesmanship.

    Journalists and media companies do the same thing.  You can read Ian Sample at The Guardian or Dennis Overbye at The New York Times, for example, and get a little smarter, and then read some other people and feel like you have been lobotomized, but the crazy headlines got more attention.  I am going to talk about those crazy people.

    National Post

    There's no byline on this article but it says they used material from AFP, which pretty much tells you all you need to know.  While Associated Press is not perfect - their squawking nonsense about local hot temperatures being caused by global warming got ridiculed by me a short while ago - nobody rewrites as poorly and inconsistently as AFP.  Here's what the National Post told us about the Higgs:

    Yes, the Higgs boson was going to give us faster-than-light travel.  What was their source for that?  None that I could find, actually. Nowhere in the article does any scientist actually claim that.  

    Instead, in the comments we have their audience speculating that if the Higgs gives the universe mass, then we might be able to "un-mass" ourselves and travel from place to place at faster than light speeds.  And one person talking about ways they might weaponize the Higgs.

    So maybe it's an instance where a media company solicited crazy comments first and then built the headline on those. I certainly can't find any way that the Higgs is going to let me spend a weekend at Alpha Centauri.


    The BBC doesn't seem to realize that the "God particle" does not actually have anything to do with God. Finding the Higgs does not in any way debunk religion unless you are some militant atheist kook who finds some way to make everything as debunking religion.

    They put it in quotes, which is a mainstream media editor's way of saying 'we are not saying this, we just went out of our way to find someone to say it so we could put it in a headline'.  I guess they were short of miracle vegetable stories this week so they had to go after religion.


    Okay, it may seem like bullying to ridicule MSNBC but they take Science 2.0 fave Lawrence Krauss' scientifically broad idea of what is possible and get silly with it.

    Krauss is not talking science, he is talking about movie science, more along the lines of 'if I had to create a teleporter using the Higgs, how would I do it?'

    "It's possible if you were able to heat up some region to something like a billion, billion, billion degrees, then in that region, the Higgs field would probably go away," Krauss said.  Which is true.  Along with all of the matter you want to teleport.   But it gave them a goofy headline that probably attracted the Nibiru crowd, since now they have a way to get their planet on our doorstep without it being detected.

    News One

    There's a lot wrong in this article, even though 50 percent of it is quotes from publications that did not get it wrong, but I never heard of them before so they get let off easier than the BBC or the National Post.  I will include just one small sample because I don't think this was a journalist and I don't want to discourage amateurs from learning the craft:
    In even simpler terms, Higgs boson explains how stars, planets and even life was created and solidifies the Big Bang Theory. Without this particle, many physicists believed that the Universe could not exist. It matches the importance of the theory of evolution for biologists.
    I was at the World Science Festival in 2009 and the funniest thing I watched was Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA double helix, say to String Theorist Professor Brian Greene (and founder of the World Science Festival and terrific science communicator) "Biology doesn't need string theory. Evolution works."

    So, no, the theory behind the Higgs does not actually have the same importance as evolution.  The Higgs was created to fill a hole in the Standard Model and the Standard Model doesn't explain gravity. You can't really have physics without gravity.

    Did I miss anything even crazier? Let me know in a comment.

    7/17/2012 - String Theory creator edited to String Theorist


    How much does the average Brooklyn resident know about the Higgs?  Very little. But they can likely name some obscure street artist no one outside the 5 boros would bother with.

    The only person who had even heard of it was called a nerd.

    You definitely got it.  Now, that 'tao of Higgs' stuff near the end was interesting, but I am not sure I buy it. No question you see the big picture issues.
    They probably must watch this "Higgs Boson explained easy"

    I'm a Brooklyn resident, and although I'm not a theoretical physicist, I think have a decent grasp. Brian Greene's books communicate the ideas quite simply, yet, eloquently. From there, one can pick up some denser theoretical books as long as one has a mathematics background, but Brian Greene is a good place to start.

    The Higgs does not exist. It defies logic.

    It defies logic that something does not come from nothing?  I know you are using the word 'logic' but I do not think you know what it means.
    You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Gerhard Adam
    Well that's settled then.  I guess we can shut down the LHC, because some anonymous poster has made it official now.  No Higgs, it defies logic.

    Don't know why no one else ever thought of that ... drat!
    Mundus vult decipi
    Well then, perhaps you can explain, with your superior powers of logic, what it was that scientists have established with 99.999% certainty? Of course, none of them have any idea how logic works, I'm sure. Don't be humble- share your gift of logic with the world!

    Only sophists think that logic is some sort of One Ring To Rule Them All that trumps reality.  There is nothing logical about the male human reproductive system, for example.

    I understand if you are an amateur philosopher and bounce around the Internet making this goofy claim, but you are at a science site. Claiming the Higgs is not 'logical' without understanding either logic or at least high school science will just get people making goat noises at you.
    That is just it. The "Standard Model" is high school science. It is a belief not a proven science. There have been an untold number of corrections to the belief of the "Standard Model" most of them "defy logic"

    I encourage you to study up on all the errors that are in the standard model. There are numerous errors. So many that I have come to believe that the Standard Model is more of a religion than a science. We need to get religion out of science.

    If you would like to educate yourself, I would suggest you start by reading this paper... I am not the author of the paper either.

    And the Grandparent post is correct. The higgs does defy logic.

    I think Campbell was asking for examples of crazy articles published in established media, not crazy crackpot theories published on a crazy crackpot website.

    I'll take over. This is what they found.

    Two different detectors at the LHC both independently found a strong signal between 125 and 126 GeV at about the 5 sigma level – that means they can claim a 99.9999% confidence this signal is real!

    They found a signal. The found signal does not me a particle or the "Higgs", just a signal.

    I will say that it is a predicted signal given the Standard Model.

    But just because something is predicted does not mean fact.

    Mathematics and Einstein's say that it is not possible to travel faster than light. Both theories state as you travel closer to the speed of light you increase in mass. And as you reach the speed of light you have so much mass that it take infinity amount of acceleration force to make you go any faster.

    That is wrong. You need an acceleration force to increase your travel speed. If I wanted to travel faster than the speed of sound, I would need a force that was accelerating faster than the speed of sound in the opposite direction, per Newton.

    Do you know of anything right now that expands faster than the speed of light..??. Me neither. So right now none of us can travel faster than the speed of light.

    Oh and as you approach and reach the speed of of light, you don't increase in mass. The accelerating force is converted to mass and given off and lost as an accelerating force. The math equation does not provide for that.

    Just because an anomaly if found from a prediction, doesn't actually mean the prediction is fact.

     The found signal does not me a particle or the "Higgs", just a signal.
    Then it is one giant particle of a signal.   It was predicted, they found something that looks what the prediction says it should be and where it should be.  By your reasoning, the Top Quark also still does not exist. Except it does.  It may not be the Standard Model Higgs, that is fine, but it is a particle. 5-sigma is just the physics way of saying 'nothing is certain' but this is a particle.

    The rest of your comment about going faster than light is outside the scope of this article, and wrong.  
    No free Quarks have ever been found. Have you found one? I haven't. I keep checking my pockets daily.

    They have found many signals that suggest a Top Quark as you call it. Yet, still can't prove the existence. A signal at 125 Gev doesn't prove the existence of a "Higgs" either.

    I'm assuming that you are educated enough to remember Sir Issac and his Laws, not theories. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That can describe acceleration. It isn't limited by the speed of sound or the speed of light.

    Please enlighten us to how Sir Issac is wrong...

    Don't make the mistake confusing "laws" with "theories". A "law" in science is a mathematical/logical assumption which seems to express the real world more (or less) accurately. This doesn't mean the law will hold forever. A "theory" in science is a framework which seems to fit the real world more (or less) accurately.

    "Please enlighten us to how Sir Issac is wrong..."

    "No free Quarks have ever been found."
    So what? No electron has ever been seen by the naked eye. Does that mean there are no electrons? Can you prove there are electrons? Can you disprove it?

    These might help those with quark problems (it helped me once);

    "The Discovery of Quarks" (SLAC, 1992)

    "The Man Who Found Quarks and Made Sense of the Universe" (Discover, 2009)

    There's no "right" in science, there are models only, and some models are better than others. The better model prevails. At the moment, Einstein prevails. And the Standard Model prevails. What the future will bring, nobody knows.

    If your theory were true, that the light-speed velocity limit were due to lack the of an accelerating force, then spacecraft could exceed the speed of light by intercepting a laser beam using a diagonal reflector. Sailing ships can exceed the speed of the wind by sailing across the wind and setting their sails diagonally. If your theory were true, particles could exceed the speed of light by accelerating one particle to near-light speed and impacting it with a second particle traveling a cross-wise intersecting path. Simple vector mathematics tells us that the resulting momentum would result in one particle moving faster than light. Since we don't see that happening in nature or the laboratory, than I have to say that your theory is false.

    I would recommend you actually read the links provided above. Special Relativity solves your problem, clearly and concisely.

    Gravity Defies "logic". Jump off a bridge then tell me it doesn't exist

    OK, so wait. If the human mind cannot wrap around it, then it can't exist? Awesome! But, um, doesn't that prove God? Rats!

    The Higgs exists or it doesn't exist, the Universe doesn't really care what we think we know.

    For those who feel this somehow impacts whether or not God exists, a couple of things...
    1) It's called "The God Particle" because a book publisher didn't like the title "The Goddamn Particle", not because it has anything to do with God.
    2) If you believe in God, science and the study of the Universe is simple studying the subtle mechanics of His creation. Nothing can "disprove" God's existence because belief is a matter of faith, not science. Similarly, if you don't believe in God, nothing can prove His existence because atheism is a matter of faith, not science.

    Things that can be proven (or dis-proven) through experimentation and direct observation are science. Stuff that can't is faith. Sorry string theorists. (Man, I went a long way for that...)

    Anyway, one question - if the Higgs generates mass, why is it incorrect to call it a graviton? Just askin'?

    For those who feel this somehow impacts whether or not God exists, a couple of things...
    Not sure why you would need to tell us this on a science site. Not only do people here know why Leon Lederman called it the God particle, they know Leon Lederman.
    if the Higgs generates mass, why is it incorrect to call it a graviton? Just askin'?
    There's no quantum theory of gravity and scalar versus tensor is an article by itself.
    Back to school with you buddy. Atheism is a matter of LACK of faith. Nothing can prove the existence of god, because there is no evidence to suggest god actually exists. Which of the tens of thousands of gods are we talking about, anyway?

    Gods don't exist. God does. Pretty simple, there's only one. The real one. GOD.

    God isn't a name, it's a descriptive term. Are you referring to Thor? Vishnu? Yahweh? Zeus? Can you explain your proofs for one in a way that doesn't prove the others? You can quote scripture if you want, but that doesn't prove much- I can match you passage for passage. Try some logic if you can. Let's see what you got.

    It isn't a graviton because a supposed 'graviton' is a particle that IS gravity. The Higgs Boson is a particle that makes up the fabric of what gives mass to particles. For example, the Higgs field would be a taught piece of fabric. Once you put an object on the fabric, it bends. The depth at which the fabric bends is the mass of that object. A graviton would be a massless particle that propagates the effect of the bulging fabric to nearby particles. (according to the theory of a graviton, anyway).

    Note: I'm not a physicist so that could be completely wrong but that's how I understand it. For more information:

    It is incorrect to call the Higgs particle graviton, because "graviton" is the name given to the (assumed) particle of the gravitational field.

    Note that the graviton does not create mass. Indeed, it doesn't even directly couple to mass, but to energy and momentum (which of course are related to mass).

    Also, the Higgs particle is very massive (that's why they needed the LHC to find it). Now the mass of force particles is connected to their range. If the graviton were that massive, gravitation would be so short range that you wouldn't feel the gravitation from earth; indeed, even a black hole of earth mass one atom diameter away from you would have no noticeable gravitational effect on you at all. To explain gravity as we know it, the graviton must be massless, or at least have an extremely tiny mass (after all, gravitation is long-range enough to hold whole galaxies together).

    It's called the God particle because it can permeate the cervix without penetration, making late term abortions safer.

    A particle that creates mass? from what? to what? does it explain gravity? dark matter?

    It's like a monkey climbing into a submarine, fascinating, but I seriously doubt it's really going anywhere.... lol

    And btw, it would prove that God does exist, who created the particle? Try creating nothing? absolute nothing? no particles, no gravity, no dark matter, NOTHING.... now that would be impressive. The Universe is full of everything, pretty easy to pull that one off eh?.... just a thought...

    Gerhard Adam
    ...just a thought
    If only that were true.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Is that your line of reasoning? We don't know how it came to be, therefore god? Where then did God come from? If nothing can come from nothing, then you just disproved your god, as it can't come from nothing either, according to your "logic."

    A particle that creates mass?

    A particle which belongs to a field which creates mass. More exactly, the field interacts with particles in a way that those particles behave as if they had mass, even though they don't really have it.

    from what?

    Since "creating mass" is not a process, that question doesn't make sense. However, interpreting the question a bit broader as "How can it create mass?" the answer is that the Higgs field is non-zero in the vacuum (so the "vacuum" is not really empty, but filled with this Higgs field). Therefore any particle is immersed in this field and thus can interact with it.

    to what?

    I cannot make sense of that question.

    does it explain gravity?


    dark matter?

    I don't know if there are any theories linking Higgs and dark matter, and I don't know enough about particle physics to really answer this question, but I personally can imagine some link between the Higgs field and dark matter (if anyone here is more knowledgeable than I am: Is the vacuum Higgs field constant in a curved spacetime)?

    I think however I've once heard something about linking the Higgs field to dark energy (but then, I might remember wrong).

    And btw, it would prove that God does exist,

    No, it wouldn't. "The God particle" is just the invention of a publisher who didn't like the originally proposed title of the book: "The goddamn particle"

    who created the particle?

    That depends on what exactly you mean by this question. The particles observed at LHC were produced by the scientists there by colliding hadrons. If you ask who created the particle in general, well, it was whoever created the rest of the universe with it. Who that was or whether there was someone at all depends on your belief system.

    Try creating nothing? absolute nothing? no particles, no gravity, no dark matter, NOTHING.... now that would be impressive.

    The problem with this is that you would never know that you produced it. Since it is nothing, it has no effect at all.

    BBC Radio 4's Midnight News bulletin went so far as to say:

    "In what's being described as a momentous day for science, physicists believe they've probably discovered what's known as the God particle, which binds the universe together and may even illuminate the origins of life itself."

    Yeah, it's really not going to do that.

    Hi Hank,

    Just pointing out that when I posted about ATLAS and CMS having 4 sigma evidence for the Higgs, that was when they only had part of the data analysis completed. They only finished the data analysis the week before the announcement, when I was reporting 5 sigma or better....

    If you pay close attention I think you'll notice that what CERN and the experiment spokespeople were saying was "please don't believe the blogs", but not "the blogs are wrong".

    That's a rather stilted pair of paragraphs on my part. I went from stating that HEP people were understating things to writing in the next paragraph '4 sigma was wrong'.  But her email, at least what they showed, was not saying 'please don't believe Dr. Woit because we think we have a much stronger case than he thinks we have', it read like 'you shouldn't believe blogs', even from people with pretty credible sources.

    That inability to note the true meaning of her distinction is why I stick to articles like this and leave the real insight to the experts.
    "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no'.'s_Law_of_Headlines

    Actually the craziest Higgs rumour I heard is the one about the Higgs mechanism being responsible for the superconducting gravity shielding experiment's results.
    From what I can find out the high rotational speed of the superconducting disk WRT earth's gravitational field generates a condensation zone where Higgs bosons are deflected, therefore resulting in a weak shielding effect.

    Just find out how to change Higgs so that my mass is less without me needing to eat less.

    Almost all of the articles on the Higgs say that mass would not exist without it. I've even seen video of LHC physicists saying this. Yet more than half of the mass of objects on earth comes from the kinetic energy of gluons.

    Yet more than half of the mass of objects on earth comes from the kinetic energy of gluons.
    You should post a link to your evidence for this. You are saying gluons are massless bosons that are half of all mass?
    A textbook reference would be Halzen and Martin "Quarks and Leptons" section 9.4 - Where are the Gluons?
    (looking at this again it appears to be slightly less than half) Note that because gluons are massless and the quarks are moving close to the speed of light in the rest frame of the proton, that energy and momentum fraction are about the same.

    or in wikipedia

    Anyone working on a proton collider would use this all the time, because the protons don't collide as solid objects. The quarks and gluons are what collide and they need to calculate the fraction of the proton energy being carried by each of its parts.

    Here's a thought experiment if you dont want to do a bunch of calculations. Take a box and line it with mirrors on the inside. Then fill it with 10 pounds of neutral pions and put it on a scale. Each pion decays into two photons moving in opposite directions. Now you have a box filled with light. Does the weight of the box change? If you think it does, then where did the weight go?

    I suspect he is talking about the QCD binding energy. Indeed the mass of the proton (and neutron) is mostly from binding energy, and the quark rest masses contribute a minority of the mass.

    "String Theory creator Professor Brian Greene" - are you confusing Brian Greene with Michael Green of
    Green-Schwarz fame?

    No, I would have gone farther back than 1984, it was just a jumble of the WSF and string theory and elegant universe's that got hacked up badly.  The downside to having no editor except a smart audience.