J Thomas wrote:I have the natural suspicion that since the whole enterprise was advertised and funded on the promise that they would find the Higgs boson (or face the shock of not finding it), then "[w]hen they get rid of all the "uninteresting" data from the LHC runs" could slip into getting rid of everything that doesn't look like a Higgs boson.
Well, no, it was founded on the promise of expanding the frontiers of science and improving our understanding of the universe.
If you're reacting like this to a mere $8 Billion, what is your take on the $4 Billion a year oil subsidies to companies that earn profits, or the effective $20+ Billion coal subsidies by allowing them to make ultra low no bid contracts? How did the billions of bank bailouts strike you?
Of all the things to be suspicious about, a long awaited result from an experiment in one of the few branches of physics with direct day to day results* is what you choose?
And since the measurements are indirect, it turns into a statistical game to decide whether the various indirect measurements could have happened from an accidental combination of other events that resulted in that particular combination of outcomes.
But the statistics about what to expect from combinations of events using the "new hammer" are partly based on theoretical grounds and partly ad hoc, and there is a possibility that they might be wrong. Lots of careful calibration can help with that, but at some point you have to just decide it's good enough and go with it.
The expectations are based on the standard model of particle physics, with a huge list of successful predictions.
It's as if you're looking for a particular new gemstone from the new safes you can crush, so you crush a bunch of safes and you put the fragments through increasingly fine sieves, and then centrifuge the ones that are around the right size, and so on, and you find a few things that could be the gemstone you want, and you can announce that they weigh closer to 23 grams than 21 grams, and they seem to be ellipsoidal more than spherical, and various theories are confirmed or shaken. But the 50 gram gems and the 6 gram gems were not what you were looking for and got discarded.
Well no, it's not that they're looking for a particular thing.
They're getting rid of everything they recognize and can explain.
The expectation is a null result, not finding anything of interest.
And perhaps there are irregular fragments of safe that slip past your testing, that you didn't expect? If you looked for 50 gram gems and 6 gram gems too, and found them, that might make it more plausible that the detection methods have a flaw and you are likely to find what you look for whether it's there or not.
I'm not sure it's useful to discuss this with you, though. The published results might possibly show how much that happened, when they get published. Or they might leave it unclear. The primary researchers ought to know. The technicians who actually did the work and analyzed the results would know, if they had a strong sense of the big picture beyond just doing their jobs.
The results are analyzed by a vast collection of scientists working in several different teams performing their own experiments.
That two distinct teams of researchers at two distinct experiments found results that both point towards the possibility that this is a 125~ GeV Higgs at 4.9 to 5 Sigma is more than enough reason for any layman to accept this as "they found the Higgs", the question even among theoretical physicists now is "how do we have to change the standard model to accomodate minimal supersymmetry", which is exciting as fuck in itself.
Striclty speaking everyone was "looking for" a heavier Higgs, one over 130 GeV I think, as that would be compatible with a no-frills standard model. That we now have what is almost experimental confirmation of supersymmetry is the real news for physics geeks like myself.
*Besides the improvement of computer networks being funded for scientific research, cloud computing improvements which were necessitated by the LHC data volume, and so forth... consider this: right now you or someone you know is walking around because of MRI scans enabling the early identification and diagnosis of numerous conditions.