Cosmology Intelligent Design Physics

Rob Sheldon on why some are upset that the Higgs boson “refuses to misbehave”

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It does its usual hard-to-explain things:

Physicists have spotted the Higgs boson performing a new trick, but one that brings us no closer to understanding the workings of fundamental particles.

The Higgs boson, discovered at the CERN particle physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, in 2012, is the particle that gives all other fundamental particles mass, according to the standard model of particle physics. However, despite the work of thousands of researchers around the world, nobody has been able to figure out exactly how it does that or why some particles are more massive than others.

Leah Crane, “Physicists have a massive problem as Higgs boson refuses to misbehave” at New Scientist

Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon comments:


This is emblematic of what is wrong with particle physics today. The standard model (SM) continues to work perfectly. And instead of rejoicing, we get headlines like “Physicists have a massive problem as Higgs boson refuses to misbehave”

That is, the SM has 18 free parameters for the masses of the fundamental particles. A free parameter is an adjustable parameter, which in this case, has been adjusted by God. Theorists don’t like that, they are in the business of removing the gaps in their “God of the gaps” theology, and 18 free parameters is 17 too many jobs for God to own.

So what to do? Come up with a theory that reduces that number, and then test it. Or rather, propose that governments send the money to build the instrument that will in 20 years time, finally test it. Here’s the money quote from the conclusion:

“We have removed scenarios, but we don’t have an explanation yet,” says Blekman. “But this is what particle physics is about – we have tens of thousands of predictions and we have to eliminate them.”

What Blekman didn’t say, but Sabine Hossenfelder does, is that there are not “tens of thousands” but rather an infinite supply of wrong theories. That should keep particle physicists employed until at least the 23rd century or until the oceans rise 30 feet, whichever comes first.

But is this really what particle physics is about–really? Making up wrong theories to test at $1bn a pop? Sabine would disagree.

Oh what a tangled web we spin when at first we practice junk design.


Rob Sheldon is also the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II

See also: Rob Sheldon on recent claims of dramatic new Higgs boson findings. Sheldon: This required analysis of thousands of decays and Terabytes of data crunching. So it is a triumph of data analysis to be able to see this rare decay against the more common route to stability, but neither unexpected nor revealing of physics “beyond the standard model”.

One Reply to “Rob Sheldon on why some are upset that the Higgs boson “refuses to misbehave”

  1. 1
    AaronS1978 says:

    I remember the incredible amount of hype when they found the Higgs for the first time

    My friend was working at the LHC at that the time. They thought that they were about to you unravel the universe and answer every question

    Then its weight came through, and even I knew what that meant when I saw 125 GeV

    Shortly there after the T-shirts if we built $1 billion machine and all we got was a Higgs started popping up everywhere in my community

    All I did was giggle

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