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Of Particular Significance

A Flash in the Pan Flickers Out

4 Aug 2016, 21:45 UTC
A Flash in the Pan Flickers Out
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Back in the California Gold Rush, many people panning for gold saw a yellow glint at the bottom of their pans, and thought themselves lucky. But more often than not, it was pyrite — iron sulfide — fool’s gold…
Back in December 2015, a bunch of particle physicists saw a bump on a plot. The plot showed the numbers of events with two photons (particles of light) as a function of the “invariant mass” of the photon pair. (To be precise, they saw a big bump on one ATLAS plot, and a bunch of small bumps in similar plots by CMS and ATLAS [the two general purpose experiments at the Large Hadron Collider].) What was that bump? Was it a sign of a new particle?
A similar bump was the first sign of the Higgs boson, though that was far from clear at the time. What about this bump?
As I wrote in December,
“Well, to be honest, probably it’s just that: a bump on a plot. But just in case it’s not…”
and I went on to describe what it might be if the bump were more than just a statistical fluke. A lot of us — theoretical ...

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