2000 to 1 Odds: The Higgs Boson Has Probably Been Found

That’s the rumor, anyway. Here’s Peter Woit of Columbia University:

This morning’s rumors are a 3.5 sigma 126 GeV excess at ATLAS in the ATLAS-only combination, and 2.5 sigma at 124 GeV for CMS. Heuer’s message to all CERN personnel says the December 13 announcements will be “significant progress in the search for the Higgs boson, but not enough to make any conclusive statement on the existence or non-existence of the Higgs.” Presumably they’re waiting for 5 sigma before claiming conclusive proof.

Translation: CERN physicists have of late been honing their search for the Higgs boson to the 124-126 gamma range and they’re getting definite signals that deviate from chance—perhaps as high as a 3.5 sigma event.

How far is a 3.5 sigma event from chance?

Over 2000 to 1.

The physicists would like a 5 sigma signal, but they’ve apparently at least arrived at a 3.5 sigma signal.

Here’s a quick run-down of sigma events in relation to probability:

  • 1 sigma event: 1 in 3 it’s chance
  • 1.5 sigma: 1 in 7
  • 2.0 sigma: 1 in 22
  • 2.5 sigma: 1 in 81
  • 3.0 sigma: 1 in 370
  • 3.5 sigma: 1 in 2149
  • 4.0 sigma: 1 in 15,787
  • 4.5 sigma: 1 in 147,160
  • 5.0 sigma: 1 in 1,744,248
  • 5.5 sigma: 1 in 26,330,254
  • 6.0 sigma: 1 in 506,797,346

Data source: Wikipedia

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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