Credit: CERN

When faced with essentially new intellectual challenges we continually follow the example of Columbus who possessed the courage to leave the known world in the almost insane hope of finding land again beyond the sea.

Werner Heisenberg

The Higgs boson vs. John's jackets

 In 1492, Columbus did his homework before leaving for India, but how about physicists chasing the Higgs? They live in the future, like Gordon Kane, who hopes that "reality catches up soon" (cf. Gordon L. Kane, May 2011, Physics Today, May 1998, p.13).

What is the base of such incredible religious belief? The Standard Model. It did predict the existence of the W and Z bosons, the gluon and two of the heavier quarks (the charm and the top quark), and all these particles were subsequently found, with the predicted properties.

Only the Standard Model is silent on the so-called God particle. The "predictions" depend on the imagination of theoretical physicists. You can find just about any "prediction" you need. Hence the reference to the predictions of the Standard Model, which were indeed successfully verified, is sheer nonsense.

To be precise, referring to the predictions of the aging Standard Model is a serious logical error, non sequitur. It happens very often with people obsessed with religious belief. They live in the future and do not want to face the reality, just like the Catholic priest who refused to look through the telescope of Galileo Galilei, because was afraid that might lose his precious faith.

On 8 November 2000, CERN director Luciano Maiani decided not to risk a delay in building the Large Hadron Collider, scheduled to switch on in 2006. The old Large Electron Positron Collider (LEP) is now being dismantled to make room for the £2 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in the same 27-kilometer tunnel straddling the French-Swiss border (Damian Carrington and Adrian Cho. LEP closes. New Scientist, 7 November 2000; LEP's long goodbye, New Scientist, 23 December 2000; see also: A. Ahuja. Particle Pursuit. The Times, 11 March 2002, Sec. T2, p. 10).

The Higgs boson was not discovered, again. The hypothetical particle bestowing mass to elementary particles was not captured. "The reason is that there is an infinite domain of a priori possible values of MH beyond the kinematic reach of LEP 2. As a result, the MH distribution is improper, i.e., it is asymptotically non-zero", says Jens Erler in hep-ph/0010153. Frank Wilczek, Herman Feshbach Professor of Physics at MIT, is more specific: The value of mass depends on how well the Higgs "sticks" to the particle, and no one knows what governs this. Moreover, this hypothetical mechanism might explain only a tiny part of the rest mass of matter (Mass delusion, New Scientist, 3 February 2001, p. 25; see also hep-ph/0101187). The hypothetical Higgs could very well be a composite, since many extensions of the standard model have a decoupling limit, with a Higgs boson similar to the standard one and many other, higher-mass states; see hep-ex/0107044. Also, the so-called standard model on non-commutative spacetime yields entirely new features such as couplings between quarks, gluons and electroweak bosons, and many new vertices in the charged and neutral currents (Peter Schupp et al., The Standard Model on Non-Commutative Space-Time, Eur. Phys. J. C23 (2002) 363-376, hep-ph/0111115).

Since there is no theory to pinpoint the "mass" (if any) of Higgs boson(s), particle physicists need again new, extremely expensive accelerators to continue their search for what they call "the God particle", if any.

But what if there is no such animal? What if matter is not made of matter? (Do we explain heat with some tiny little and very "hot" particles, say, heatino, heatinino, and their SUSY partners?) A way out from such possible embarrassing situation has been generously suggested by Dr. Karl Gill, an experimental physicist involved in assembling the £2 billion Large Hadron Collider: "If the Higgs does not exist then something else has to" (A. Ahuja. Particle Pursuit. The Times, 11 March 2002, Sec. T2, p. 10).

Fabulous. But why chasing Higgs or "something else" with taxpayers' money? Why not doing the homework first on a plain sheet of paper?

The point is that the phenomenon providing the mass of the visible matter and that of the cold dark matter should be concomitant to the puzzle of vacuum energy density and the cosmological constant. High energy physics and cosmology go together (cf. J. Overduin and W. Priester, astro-ph/0101484), we just have to catch two birds in one stroke, keeping in mind all plausible theories (J.V. Narlikar et al., astro-ph/0205064). Why not opt for making it first on paper? First things first, correct? Who would claim that this task is impossible by default, to substantiate spending billions of dollars and euro, taxpayers' money, for new particle accelerators? We need a theory of quantum gravity, not toys for chasing some hypothetical Higgs or "something else", whichever comes first.

The Next Linear Collider is estimated at $7.9 billion in 1999 [Collider's moment of truth. Nature 410, 395 (22 March 2001)], while TESLA, the Tera electron volt Energy Superconducting Linear Accelerator, is "just" about US $3 billion, -- without labor and operational costs though, which could double the actual price [German lab unveils plan to build physicists' next particle collider. Nature 410, 397-398 (22 March 2001)].

Compared to these monsters, the revamped Tevatron at Fermilab, with a new $250-million main injector, looks like a lollipop. "But no one is expecting the Higgs to reveal itself that quickly -- indeed, its discovery may have to wait for another upgrade, in which the Tevatron's beam intensity will be boosted a further five- or ten-fold, planned for 2004", says Sarah Tomlin [Back in business. Nature 409, 754-755 (15 February 2001)]. 

"But even stranger possibilities exist. Some physicists hope that the Tevatron will yield evidence for extra spatial dimensions. As many as 11 extra dimensions are required by string theory, which is a contender for a deeper theory unifying the puny force of gravity with the other forces of the Standard Model. String theorists argue that we do not see these extra dimensions in our regular three-dimensional world because they are all rolled up very small.

"Extra dimensions would probably show up in the Tevatron through their interaction with gravity. Like other forces, gravity is thought to be carried by a particle, yet to be detected, called a graviton. But with extra dimensions, huge numbers of extra gravitons could be created in high-energy collisions, which may reveal themselves through their collective effects. For example, they might show up as missing energy in a collision, if a particularly heavy graviton disappears into another dimension".

In short, no one can be sure what the Tevatron will discover, but for more than 1,000 physicists who will be using the improved Tevatron to conduct their experiments, the fun has just begun, says Kurt Riesselmann.  "It's not guaranteed that we will find any of these things," says Joe Lykken from Fermilab. "But boy, it would be very disappointing if it didn't find at least one of them" [Back in business. Nature 409, 754-755 (15 February 2001)].

And certainly very expensive, too. In a recent meeting organized by the American Physical Society, Alexander Chao, an accelerator physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) and co-chair of the meeting, was reported to claim that the Next Linear Collider is indeed on the agenda [Colin MacIlwain, Physicists rally behind linear-collider plan, Nature 412, 367 (26 July 2001); E. Jongewaard et al., hep-ex/0008038]. None of these physicists, however, have any clue about the nature of 'dark energy', which is estimated to be at least 65 per cent from the stuff of the Universe [J.A. Peacock et al., A measurement of the cosmological mass density from clustering in the 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey. Nature  410, 169-173 (8 March 2001)]. But it looks quite possible that they will nevertheless get a new tool for chasing the artifacts from an essentially incomplete theory known as 'standard model'. This will be a very expensive enterprise delivered with the money of U.S. taxpayers, but who cares about some $7.9 billion, as estimated five years ago?

For the record: I sent my first proposal to U.S. Department of Energy back in March 1994, stressing the need for re-examination of vacuum energy, but the sole response from DoE from April 8th same year was an ironic letter from Mr. Walter Polansky who suggested that I should read physics textbooks. I challenged him to find at least one error in my proposal, then sent him many letters and email but never heard from him anymore.

To the best of my knowledge, this elusive person is still working for DoE. If you, my dear reader, know Mr. Walter M. Polansky (email [email protected], phone 001-301/ 903-5800 and fax 001-301/ 903-7774), please convey him that I am still waiting for his reply. Billions of taxpayers' dollars are at stake. I don't pay my taxes in the U.S., all I need is somebody to find one error. The story begins from here and ends here.

Perhaps what we need is some open-minded theoretical physicists and a few old envelopes. "While we don't know what dark energy is, we are certain that understanding it will provide crucial clues in the quest to unify the forces and particles in the universe, and that the route to this understanding involves telescopes, not accelerators", says Michael Turner from the University of Chicago. See also: M.S. Turner, A New Era in Determining the Matter Density, 4 June 2001, astro-ph/0106035.

The ideas outlined here are believed to provide help for elaborating a new theory explaining the mass of elementary particles as a new effect of spacetime geometry. In the context of John's jackets parable, all properties of elementary particles (Onta, Henry Margenau) are supposed to exist in the form of quantum propensity (or Holon, as suggested by I. Raptis, private communication): a new kind of reality just in the middle between possibility and physical reality. It does include the case of 'physical reality out there' from classical physics as a limiting case, and provides an entirely different interpretation of Heisenberg relations, which is supposed to accommodate gravity from the outset. The price is simply a new physical object with internal structure, John's jackets, suggested to replace the fundamental geometrical object -- a point.

This new kind of reality is believed to be helpful for solving the measurement problem in quantum mechanics and information loss paradox, cosmological constant problem, background-free quantum gravity, the problem of time, the emergence of time and space in quantum gravity, Dirac monopole and quark confinement, the non-reality of gauge potentials (only gauge-independent quantities are observable, which might not be the case of Higgs boson), fractional electron charges (Humphrey Maris' electrinos), and many unsolved mysteries of quantum cosmology, as well as for understanding the physics of human brain and psychological time arrow.

As to those who automatically reject the existence of this new kind of reality, and subsequently the possibility for some universal time arrow, let me remind a story from 1772 when, on the occasion of the fall of meteorites, the French Academy of Sciences adopted a resolution categorically rejecting such "anomalous" phenomena. The obvious reason had been that rocks cannot fall from the sky simply because there are no rocks there. In our case, having no explanation of the nature of gravity in the quantum realm, we better keep our mind open to all possibilities.

I am perfectly aware of the possibility that no physicist from CERN or Fermilab will pay any attention to my concerns. This did not happen in the past two years, and probably will never happen. I don't expect to hear from any DoE official either. This didn't happen in the past eight and a half years (see above). I've written to sixty-seven theoretical physicists (Asher Peres included) but the sole feedback so far was a vague remark from Tito Vecchi: "actually I see now that you might have a point, sort of",

To sum up, the whole Higgs enterprise will cost an enormous amount of money -- taxpayers' money -- and is just a game of poker with pre-chosen winners: the established physical community. If Higgs are discovered -- great. If not -- even better. Whatever happens, we will pay for keeping a number of physicists highly excited. Paul D. Grannis, from Stony Brook High Energy Group at State University of New York, acknowledged that above 130 GeV "it is most likely not supersymmetry, and then we're on a fishing expedition to figure out what the hell is going on" (Higgs Won't Fly, Scientific American, February 2001).

Three years ago, on December 7, 2001, New Scientist explained the whole purpose of this fishing in murky waters: to enrich our culture, meaning "to change our view of the Universe and our place within it". Do we need this? Has anyone asked the established physical community for "more culture"?

All I want to say is that if someone offers a new, £2 billion Barbie to my nine-year old daughter, I will not accept it. It's too much. It is simply not fair. Surely it is "an understandable ploy", as acknowledged in the Editorial article of New Scientist, and  is most certainly not fair.

As to Mr. Walter Polansky and the rest of physicists who preferred to remain silent and did not reply to my email, letters, and phone calls in the last eight and a half years, may I quote from GUIDELINES FOR PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT adopted by the Council of the American Physical Society on 3 November 1991:

"Each physicist is a citizen of the community of science. Each shares responsibility for the welfare of this community. Science is best advanced when there is mutual trust, based upon honest behavior, throughout the community.

"Honesty must be regarded as the cornerstone of ethics in science.

"It should be recognized that honest error is an integral part of the scientific enterprise. It is not unethical to be wrong, provided that errors are promptly acknowledged and corrected when they are detected."

Surely there are huge errors in the way physicists examine the human brain. See S. Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time', Bantam Books, New York, 1988, pp. 163-164. Surely I'm not the first person to list the facts against such Marxist-Leninist interpretation of the brain as some "computer". But who cares?

Finally, let me briefly explain a wild guess which I made some sixteen years ago, on February 5, 1987, in a seminar at the Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear Energy of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Again, it's all about the Holon of Arthur Koestler, which, according to the hypothesis presented here, lives in the potential future of the universal time arrow, the physical basis of the psychological time arrow. Hence the notion of potential reality and the hypothesis of global mode of time parameterized with an open interval of real numbers (0, infinity). If we set the value of the global mode of time to approach zero, we recover the classical mechanics applicable to inanimate physical systems, for which the effect of the Holon is vanishing small.

Think of the Holon as the entity which correlates a shoal of fish swinging along a coral reef. You never observe the Holon directly, it's always "confined": the genuine dynamics is non-unitary, as in the case of the human brain and its cognitive structure. Suppose that in the quantum realm the Holon absorbs the potential values of all quantum observables and keeps them in a holistic form resembling Platonic ideas. At the beginning of the quantum realm, the Holon would absorb the potential values of all complementary observables from Heisenberg "uncertainty" relations, interpreted as flexibility for trajectories of each and every 'fish' shearing a 'common wave function'. At this layer, corresponding to non-relativistic QM such as the version suggested by David Bohm, the Holon fixes the quantum state of all particles at each and every instant 'now' from their quantum trajectories, just like the trajectories of every fish from the example above. At the next layer of QCD, the Holon would absorb the mass of elementary particles, and hence we get what physicists call quarks -- totally confined by default. Physically, the Holon acts here as gauge fields, non-Abelian included. But we have left the poor electron out.

The point is, what if the number of quarks follows the Fibonacci sequence? Can we think of the next Holon of eight quarks such that the real particles and resonances from them would include the electron, down the road toward the Planck scale? All we have to do is to find at a given layer the remnant of the Holon from the next layer, and see if the chain of Holon(s) and their quarks can be modeled with the Fibonacci sequence. Strictly speaking, the Holon exists at the layer of inanimate macro-world of tables and chairs, only its quantum wave is vanishing small, and hence we can safely ignore the quantum of action (cf. A. Sommerfeld quoted by Luigi Foschini in quant-ph/9901013), set the elementary increment of time to approach zero at any given "point", and obtain a classical trajectory and "instantaneous" velocity at any "point" from this trajectory. As it always happens, the Angels are in the details.

Just a wild guess, to explain what I think about the Higgs: an artifact from a theory lacking a sufficiently huge Holon. Once we find it, there will be more quarks in Fibonacci sequence and more real particles and/or resonances, at least on paper, but not the Holon itself. No way.

The "last" Holon covers 'the whole universe', which is the only truly isolated system. In this case the global mode of time will approach infinity, and the physical explication of this "last" Holon would be an entity totally empty of any concrete content: an abstract mathematical point. No physical meaning can be attached to a point on the space-time manifold, meaning that no physical individuation of these points is admissible in Einstein's GR, as we know from the hole argument. On the other hand, the interpretation suggested here is that these abstract mathematical points are the explication of the "last" Holon which covers 'the whole universe'. Put it differently, everything in the universe is sort of projected "inside" an abstract mathematical point. Hence we can believe that God is "inside" the instant 'now'. Always been there, always will. The physical time, which can be measured with a clock, is the local mode of time. It can only tend asymptotically toward the Beginning and the End. Once created [John 1:1-4], the universe is physically eternal for all observers in their local reference frames, while the global mode of time, pertaining to the chain of Holon(s), is completely "frozen", as in the Wheeler-DeWitt equation,  H [Psi]=0 . Surely 'the only truly isolated system' -- we inevitably refer to it by a rigorous examination of the measurement problem in QM -- is not observable with any inanimate device or apparatus: any energy exchange would change its Hamiltonian, hence some of its potential states (or jackets) will be explicated in the local mode of time, and it will not be a genuine closed system anymore. Not surprisingly, the Fibonacci sequence and the chain of embedded Holon(s) (recall Leibnitz Monadology) are not finite either. So much about the 'mass hierarchy problem' in the standard model. E sarà mia colpa se così è? (Niccolò Machiavelli).

 My CD ROM "Physics of Human Intention" will be available in 2004. The theory is based on firmly established facts about the human brain. It is a piece of matter governed by new physical laws, which will require dramatic change in our Weltbild. The so-called God particle may not be a particle but an effect of spacetime geometry due to the Holon residing in the potential future of the universal time arrow. We may discover it on paper and reveal the artifacts in current theoretical physics, which are still plaguing and hassling the proper understanding of quantum theory and the "curvature" of spacetime: there is no room for the phenomenon of transience in today's theoretical physics. We can (hopefully) get this job done long before the start of experiments with that huge and extremely expensive toy, the Large Hadron Collider. Then we will explore the Holon with our brains. The reward could be enormous, for all of us.

So, why not try it on paper? First things first, correct? If we believe that the world is comprehensible, all we need is math and clear thinking: "We haven't the money, so we've got to think" (Lord Rutherford, 1962 Brunel Lecture, 14 February 1962). The sooner, the better.

Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist Er nicht! (Albert Einstein).

Dimi Chakalov  [email protected]

Christmas 2000
Latest update: January 4, 2004


Eugenie Samuel. No sign of the Higgs boson.  New Scientist,

19:00 05 December 01

The legendary particle that physicists thought explained why matter has mass probably does not exist. So say researchers who have spent a year analysing data from the LEP accelerator at the CERN nuclear physics lab near Geneva.

The elusive Higgs boson is so central to the standard model - the theory on which physicists base their whole understanding of matter - that it has been dubbed the "God particle". If there is no Higgs, they will be left totally unable to explain mass.

The standard model explains the collection of fundamental particles that make up matter, including muons, electrons, neutrinos and quarks. In the 1960s, researchers successfully worked out how these particles interact and bind together via the strong and weak nuclear forces. But that didn't explain why the particles also have mass, until Peter Higgs at Edinburgh University suggested space is filled with a heavy, treacly substance - now called the Higgs field - which gives particles their mass by dragging on them through a mediator called the Higgs boson. His work triggered a 30-year quest to find the Higgs. From the masses and interactions of other particles that we know exist, physicists calculated that the Higgs is most likely to have a mass (or energy) of around 80 gigaelectronvolts (GeV). If particle accelerators smash particles together at that energy or higher, it should be possible to make one.

Data sifting

This is what members of the Electroweak Working Group at CERN were doing for the 5 years until LEP (the Large Electron Positron Collider) closed down last year. Since then they've been sifting through the data they gathered--and found nothing. They rule out most possible masses for the Higgs, including the ones considered most likely. "It's more likely than not that there is no Higgs," says working group member John Swain of Northeastern University in Boston.

For many it's a big disappointment, because last year researchers from another group at LEP claimed they had found the Higgs (New Scientist, 9 September 2000, p 4). Their announcement came shortly before LEP was due to close, and it won them one month's extra time on LEP. But they later admitted to having botched their calculations in the heat of the moment. Their mistake was to assume too low a level of background noise as the experiment's energy was ratcheted up, so that they took scattered particles that were actually background as signs of the Higgs.

Now the calculations have been reworked, members of the Electroweak Working Group say there was no sign of a Higgs at energies up to 115 GeV, well past the 80 GeV where it would be expected. That only leaves around 30 per cent of possibilities. It's existence is looking "less and less likely", says Steve Reucroft, also of Northeastern University. "We've eliminated most of the hunting area," confirms Neil Calder at CERN.

Improbable energy

This isn't the first bad news for the standard model. In February, researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York ruffled feathers by saying that the magnetic moment of the muon was different to the predicted value. But the latest blow is more serious. The non-appearance of a key particle would signal the end of large parts of the standard model.

Not everyone is too bothered, yet. Frank Wilczek, a particle physics theorist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, points out that you could take the LEP results as evidence that the Higgs must be sitting at an improbably high energy. He says he'll start to get uncomfortable if the Higgs doesn't show up by about 130 GeV. "Then I would have a good long think," he says.

Swain says he'd bet large amounts of money that the Higgs doesn't exist. But he still thinks it's important for CERN to push on with building its Large Hadron Collider, which is scheduled to start smashing particles at even higher energies in 2007. "It's not until you've ruled out more than 99 per cent of values that everyone will be convinced," he says.

Difficult step

For example David Plane, head of LEP's OPAL experiment, is still certain that the Higgs will eventually be found. "It's just at a higher energy than we're sensitive to."

The problem for physicists is that without the Higgs particle they don't have a viable theory of matter. "There is nothing remotely as plausible or compelling to replace it," says Wilczek. Supersymmetry, which predicts every particle is paired with a heavier partner, is a popular idea. But LEP's results are even worse news for this theory, as it predicts several Higgs particles. The lightest one would have turned up at even lower energies, and couldn't exist above 130 GeV.

For physicists who have spent years trying to find the Higgs, admitting it could be fantasy is a huge and difficult step. But Swain is ready to get over the disappointment and move on. "You search for the truth, and the truth is whatever it is," he says.

See also: New Scientist editorial

Eugenie Samuel


There may be no God particle but the adventure is just beginning.  New Scientist editorial,

17:15 07 December 01

As celebrities go, the Higgs boson is an unlikely character. For one thing it is an unimaginably tiny and fleeting speck of matter. For another, its existence is purely theoretical. Yet celebrity it is.

In the mid-1990s, Britain's then science minister William Waldegrave offered a bottle of champagne to those who could best explain the Higgs to him. At about the same time, Nobel laureate Leon Lederman immortalised it in the title of his book The God Particle.

The attraction of this elusive beast stems from its role in explaining one of nature's deepest mysteries: why subatomic particles have mass. Without mass the components of the Universe would be flying around at the speed of light and there could be no planets, stars or people. The theory goes that it is the way Higgs bosons interact with each fundamental particle that gives it its characteristic mass.

So it is something of a shock to learn this week that physicists hunting the Higgs are worried that it does not exist (see "No sign of the God particle"). Researchers at CERN, the centre for particle physics near Geneva, have ruled out most of the likely energy slots where the particle might lurk and now reckon it more probable that the Higgs is the product of an overactive imagination.

Transferring the mystery

Without wishing to speak ill of the (probably) dead, it's worth pointing out that despite its celebrity the Higgs never was the complete answer to the mystery of mass. Before Higgs, there were two key questions: where does mass come from and why do different subatomic particles have different masses? The Higgs answers both but raises another: exactly how does this much vaunted cosmic ingredient endow different particles with different masses? Instead of resolving the mystery, it merely transferred it to itself.

Then there's the fact that the Higgs explains only a tiny part of the mass of everyday objects, which comes largely from the force that holds the ingredients of protons and neutrons together. Nor does it describe why particles feel the influence of gravity.

Yet if the Higgs is no more, it will be sorely missed - not least by the physicists who convinced governments around the world to stump up £1.5 billion to build the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. It was the campaign to drum up political support for this vast particle accelerator that made the Higgs famous. In our sound-bite culture, where messages have to be direct and brief, the prospect of finding the Higgs became a potent marketing tool. It was an understandable ploy.

Dangerous perception

Unlike other big science projects such as the Human Genome Project, the LHC could not promise great utilitarian benefits. No cancer cures. No gene therapies. Sure, it might spark the birth of some new and useful technology - just as CERN's previous accelerator led to the existing World Wide Web - but this would be a spin-off. The primary purpose of the LHC is cultural, to change our view of the Universe and our place within it. Getting hard-pressed governments to find cash for such an intellectual endeavour needed a sharp focus. Enter the God particle.

The downside is that many politicians and members of the public now believe the LHC is being built solely to find the Higgs, when it is not. This is a dangerous perception. If the Higgs turns out not to exist, politicians will be wary of parting with the next £1.5 billion, and physicists may rue the day they rallied behind it.

In reality, the LHC is designed not to find the Higgs, but to discover whether or not it exists. We certainly won't be able to sign its death certificate without the LHC. What's more, not finding the Higgs will, paradoxically, prove even more exciting than finding it.

Physicists will have to rethink not just their theories of where mass comes from but their entire model of the subatomic world. And what better tool to inform that process than the mighty LHC. Smash particles together at energies not seen since the earliest days of the Universe and all sorts of insights into the nature of matter are likely to tumble out of your experiments.

Now that the money for the LHC is assured and construction has begun, it's time for particle physicists to modify their message. For too long they have allowed themselves and onlookers to obsess over a particle that may, or may not, exist. All too often they've shown religious-like conviction in something they may never find. In so doing they have undersold an exciting experiment that, communicated properly, could enrich all our lives.

New Scientist editorial