Sunday, May 22, 2022

The W-Boson Findings

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Cosmology, Nature of Science, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Scientists, particularly those with a theoretical orientation, spend considerable time and effort searching for flaws in theories although practicing scientists do the same with their hypotheses as they seek evidence that support and don't support them. This includes using multiple lines of evidence.

Recently, dramatic headlines have appeared indicating that theoretical physicists are concerned about a new measurement, an anomaly, that challenges a well-established theory, known as the Standard Model, that  explains the behavior of all the universe's particles. Words and phrases such as "worried," "shocking," "re-writing textbooks," "everything we know about the universe is wrong," etc., are used to bait the reader to read on. For two examples from the popular science press see here and here.

Theoreticians and experimentalists not so much. Their concern is with the evidence. How good...trustworthy is it and does it meet the standard of firm evidence or is the measurement flawed?

BackReaction's Sabine Hossenfelder asks "How seriously should you take this?" In a new talk she explains. It is worth taking a look for she includes some history, related ideas, comments on the data as well as what one of the large tools of particle physics research can and cannot do and also her reason for leaving particle physics research.

The quote above are the words of the healthy skepticism scientists bring to their work, including their own. Maybe. Maybe not. It's all about the evidence. Hossenfelder's closing sentence is folksy. "It’s possible of course that one of those is the real thing, but to borrow a German idiom, don’t eat the headlines as hot as they’re cooked."

The BackReaction site includes a transcript and a link to the video on YouTube which doesn't. The latter likely includes some graphic information the transcript doesn't, e.g., graphs, etc.

If you would like to know about or more about the Standard Model--the most successful scientific theory ever-- this 16m 24s video from Quanta  received many good comments on its clarity.  This stuff is not easy peasey.

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