Today the two main experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, submitted the results of their latest analyses. The new papers boost the case for December’s announcement of a possible Higgs signal, but let’s not get too excited.
First, there’s no new data in there—the LHC stopped colliding protons back in November, and these latest results are just rehashes that earlier run. In the case of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), physicists have been able to look at another possible kind of Higgs decay, and that allows them to boost their Higgs signal from 2.5σ to 3.1σ. Taken together with data from the other detector, ATLAS, Higgs overall signal now unofficially stands at about 4.3σ. In other words, if statistics are to be believed, then this signal has about a 99.996% chance of being right. It all sounds very convincing, but keep your hat on, because the fact is that statistical coincidences happen every day. Over at Cosmic Variance, Sean Carroll points out that there is a 3.8σ signal in the Super Bowl coin toss. Does that mean that they’ve discovered a super-partner to the bowl? No. (If you don’t get that joke, don’t worry, it was written only as punishment for those who would).