If you were reading newspapers, science blogs, or even some articles written by prominent scientists or announcements by prominent institutions (such as Canada’s Perimeter Institute), you might be under the impression that the Higgs boson is a done deal: it has been discovered. (Indeed, Perimeter’s Web site announces on its home page that “[the] Higgs boson has been found”.
Sounds great but it is not true. Let me quote from a recent New Scientist online article: “Although spotted at last, many properties of the new particle – thought to be the Higgs boson, or at least something similar – have yet to be tested. What’s more, the telltale signature it left in the detectors at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) does not exactly match what is predicted”.
There, this says it all. We are almost certain that something has been discovered. (This is the 4.9-sigma result). We are not at all certain that it’s the Higgs. It probably is, but there is a significant likelihood that it isn’t, and we will only know for sure one way or another after several more years’ worth of data are collected. At least this is what the experimenters say. And why should you listen to anyone other than the experimenters?