An online posting of what appears to be a internal memo written by researchers at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator located at CERN caused a temporary frisson of excitement among physics buffs, stirred by the hope that scientists had finally confirmed the existence of the Higgs boson, popularly known as the "God particle."
"This is either a hoax, or something that will disappear on further analysis," wrote Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit on April 21, citing what seemed to be a document from CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Switzerland.
Abstract Motivated by the result of the Higgs boson candidates at LEP with a mass of about 115~GeV/c2, the observation given in ATLAS note ATL-COM-PHYS-2010-935 (November 18, 2010) and the publication "Production of isolated Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider Physics" (Letters B 683 2010 354-357), we studied the ?? invariant mass distribution over the range of 80 to 150 GeV/c2. With 37.5~pb?1 data from 2010 and 26.0~pb?1 from 2011, we observe a ?? resonance around 115~GeV/c2 with a significance of 4?. The event rate for this resonance is about thirty times larger than the expectation from Higgs to ?? in the standard model. This channel H??? is of great importance because the presence of new heavy particles can enhance strongly both the Higgs production cross section and the decay branching ratio. This large enhancement over the standard model rate implies that the present result is the first definitive observation of physics beyond the standard model. Exciting new physics, including new particles, may be expected to be found in the very near future"
On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Large Hadron Collider doused the momentary excitement. "Only ... results that have undergone all the necessary scientific checks by the [ATLAS] Collaboration should be taken seriously," said the spokeswoman, Fabiola Gianotti.
In 2010, an Italian physicist made a similar claim about a discovery at Fermilab's Tevatron that also failed to prove out.
Tommaso Dorigo, a particle physicist at Fermilab and CERN, similarly expressed caution about this latest stir caused by the memo's dissemination.
"I bet $1,000 with whomever has a name and a reputation in particle physics (this is a necessary specification, because I need to be sure that the person taking the bet will honor it) that the signal is not due to Higgs boson decays," he wrote on his blog. "I am willing to bet that this is no new particle. Clear enough?"