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Of Particular Significance

The 2016 Data Kills The Two-Photon Bump

5 Aug 2016, 17:18 UTC
The 2016 Data Kills The Two-Photon Bump
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Results for the bump seen in December have been updated, and indeed, with the new 2016 data — four times as much as was obtained in 2015 — neither ATLAS nor CMS [the two general purpose detectors at the Large Hadron Collider] sees an excess where the bump appeared in 2015. Not even a hint, as we already learned inadvertently from CMS yesterday.
All indications so far are that the bump was a garden-variety fluke, probably (my personal guess! there’s no evidence!) enhanced slightly by minor imperfections in the 2015 measurements. Should we be surprised? No. If you look back at the history of the 1970s and 1980s, or at the recent past, you’ll see that it’s quite common for hints — even strong hints — of new phenomena to disappear with more data. This is especially true for hints based on small amounts of data (and there were not many two photon events in the bump — just a couple of dozen). There’s a reason why particle physicists have very high standards for statistical significance before they believe they’ve seen something real. (Many other fields, notably medical research, have much lower standards. Think about that for a while.) History ...

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