CERN Un-Discovers New Particle

Bah, humbug! A few months ago I wrote about the excitement surrounding a blip in the latest data coming out of the LHC at CERN. Both the CMS and ATLAS experiments saw the blip which seemed to be the result of a new, hitherto unknown particle that decayed to give two high energy photons. The findings were only cautiously announced and it was openly acknowledged that the blip may come to nothing once new data was collected over the summer.

Alas, so it has come to pass that the blip has disappeared. It would appear that it was no more than a coincidence that both experiments showed a blip at the same energy. The Standard Model of physics, then, remains solidly intact to be expanded another day. The announcement was made at the 38th International Conference on High Energy Physics this week.

The first announcement had spawned a flurry of papers in the arXiv within the first couple of days all trying to explain a new particle that was wholly unexpected. I wouldn’t say that they were wasted effort though obviously nothing will come of them. It is, of course, a bit of a downer that we don’t get to hear about a hugely significant discovery in the world of particle physics; but it isn’t all bad. If nothing else, it is a demonstration that no matter how attached to your theory you are, no matter how elegant a solution you have proposed to a problem, ultimately, in science, data rules all. If your idea doesn’t match the observations then it must be discarded. You can’t describe how the universe works if you don’t pay attention to what the universe is telling you.

First half of the CMS inner tracker barrel. Image courtesy of CERN.

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