Did they or didn’t they find the Higgs boson?

By now I’m sure anyone who reads this blog has heard that CERN made an announcement concerning the Higgs boson this morning.  The results hint strongly that the Higgs – or something – is there.  There are two detectors that are involved in the search – CMS and ATLAS.  The statistical confidence (don’t even get me started on that one) of CMS is between 2 and 2.5 sigma while it is between 3 and 3.5 for ATLAS.  The FQXi Facebook page (which I presume is being handled by Zeeya Merali this morning) noted that, apparently, biologists are mocking us (i.e. physicists) for not taking a sigma of less than 3 as definitive proof.  Zeeya (er, whomever is tweeting/Facebooking this morning) notes, however, that roughly 50% of particle physics experiments with a sigma of less than 3 are false positives.  Such is the life of a physicist.


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