I’ve just read The Higgs Fake by Alexander Unzicker. He says physicists such as Einstein would have considered the “discovery” of the Higgs boson to be utterly ridiculous. And more. Unzicker really rips into particle physics. Not physics, particle physics, also known as high energy physics or HEP. But note that Unzicker isn’t some anti-science zealot. See the author section on Amazon along with his CV and his arXiv papers. He’s a whistleblower, which is why he’s written this book.
You know this when you’ve read A Zeptospace Odyssey by CERN physicist Gian Giudice, because then you know a few things. Like the Higgs mechanism is “frightfully ad hoc”. Like it’s responsible for only 1% of the mass of matter. Like the Higgs boson isn’t the central particle of the Standard Model. So you know there’s a big difference between the facts and the mystery-of-mass hype. And you know that there’s particle physicists out there who know the facts but keep quiet, whilst others hype the hype and tell fairy tales about cosmic treacle.
So you know Unzicker isn’t talking out of his hat. You know Unzicker is right when he says particle physicists haven’t reduced the number of parameters or incorporated gravity. You know they haven’t explained the fine structure constant. Or the mass of the electron and the proton. Or why the electron and proton and their antiparticles are the only stable massive particles. You know particle physicists haven’t explained spin, or charge, or Beta decay, or any of the other puzzles that bothered Einstein and Bohr and Pauli and Schrödinger and Dirac. You know instead that particle physicists have made things more complicated rather than more elegant, going against the grain of scientific progress. You know that instead of explaining things, particle physicists have invented things. Things like supersymmetry, which is now a dead man walking. Things like isospin and color and hypercharge and strangeness. Things that aren’t explained at all, and things that are swept under the carpet, like quark confinement.
So you smile wryly when Unzicker quotes from The End of Physics by David Lindley, a former editor at Nature: “In the end, the quark model succeeded by the ironical trick of proving that no quark would ever be directly seen by a physicist. This liberated physicists from any need to demonstrate the existence of quarks in the traditional way”. You smile some more when Unzicker quotes from Constructing Quarks by Andrew Pickering: “A critic could easily assert that the sea quark and gluon components were simply ad hoc devices, designed to reconcile the expected properties of quarks with experimental findings”.
But you don’t smile when Unzicker reminds you that the fabulous Higgs boson appears to have a lifetime of only 10-25 seconds. Because like Unzicker says, such “particles” don’t even leave the collision point. They have never made it to any detector. Their bump-on-a-graph existence is “inferred” from triggering and selection and damn statistics. And from decay products and missing momentum. Which means decay products that weren’t actually seen, are used to proclaim the existence of particles that weren’t actually seen.
Whatever existence there was, was fleeting, transient, ephemeral. And there is no public data like there is for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Like Unzicker said in a joint paper, it really isn’t clear what if anything was discovered. But what his book makes crystal clear, is the driven desire for “the discovery of the century”. Because particle physicists are desperate to persuade the public and politicians that they deliver value. When actually, they don’t.
It all makes grim reading. All the more so because what Unzicker is also saying, is that particle physics has form. He tells us about the neutral current that dates back to 1973, and how data analysers cherry-picked 100 out of 290,000 photographs. He refers to How Experiments End by Peter Galison about the contradictory paper that was never submitted to a journal. Unzicker also tells us about the W boson which dates back to 1983. He tells us it has a lifetime of 10-25 seconds, and should decay into an electron and an invisible neutrino. So what was actually detected? An electron. And check this out:
“Rubbia urged his collaborators to work day and night before his visit to various institutions in the USA. He took a picture of a ‘W-event’ with him. There, Steven Weinberg, Abdus Salam and Sheldon Glashow all happily agreed that it was the long sought-after W boson (which confirmed their theory, by the way)…”
Unzicker says the official announcement was given in a common seminar of groups UA1 and UA2, which reminds you of 4th July 2012. He says CERN management provided Rubbia with the UA2 results privately, and that believing in independent analysis is like believing in Santa Claus. He talks about the top quark which dates back to 1995. He tells us it has a lifetime of 10-25 seconds, and had to exist because: “the bottom quark needed a partner, as the Ws and Zs had to exist because otherwise the standard model was wrong”. We’ve never seen a free quark, remember? This top quark was seen to decay into a bottom quark and a W boson. But we’ve never actually seen a top quark, or a bottom quark, or a W boson. The top quark was inferred from particles that were inferred. And after that ”something had to be found in the theoretical boxroom to inspire the next round of high energy experiments”. Groan. Those of you who are old enough to remember might recall that the Higgs boson just didn’t feature in 1995. But now it does.
Only it doesn’t explain “the mystery of mass”, because it’s E=mc² on the T-shirts, and there is no mystery of mass. You may recall that Einstein said the electron is a body, and the mass of a body is a measure of its energy content. And you may recall pair production and annihilation, and the wave nature of matter, and magnetic dipole moment, and the Einstein-de Haas effect. You make an electron out of light, and when you destroy it you get light again. In between there’s something going round and round like Dirac’s belt, such that an electromagnetic field variation now looks like a standing field. What can it be? Cheese? No. So you may appreciate that photon momentum is a measure of resistance-to-change-in-motion for a wave propagating linearly at c, whilst electron mass is a measure of resistance-to-change-in-motion for a wave going round and round at c.
And so it goes, what goes round comes round, and here we are. We have no electron model within the Standard Model. Instead we have what Unzicker described as epicycles. Because of groupthink and big science and singing in the choir. Because of mindcuffs and peer review and the ”suppression of opinions that would endanger the sacred cows of an established field”. Oh it makes grim reading all right. All the more so when you know that particle physicists have painted themselves into a corner. They can’t admit that any of it is wrong. And yet, whilst they dismiss the turkey delusion, they know in their hearts that if things don’t change, they’re in for the chop.
Merry Christmas to one and all.