Posts tagged ‘CERN’

July 4, 2012

Higgs Boson, #CERN, #Science, and #Comic Sans

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

 Today, CERN, announced that with a certainty of 5 sigmas they had detected a particle, akin to the Higgs Boson (via the energy, 126.5GeV, it emits as it decays). This VERY closely matched the predicted Standard Model of a Higgs Boson.

My only disappointment was that I was expecting the 1812 Overture as they made their announcement but all I got was the Comic Sans font  of the fabulous scientist, Fabiola Gianotti (member of CERN’s ATLAS team).

What was trending this early AM?   #Higgs, #CERN, #ATLAS, #LHC, #Fabiola Gianotti, and #Comic Sans .  Huh? What was a casual computer font like, Comic Sans,  doing trending?

You see Fabiola Gianotti is the Italian particle physicist in charge of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. In her presentation, she rather humorously chose to use Comic Sans, for her presentation’s font. Well apparently that insignificant detail of this momentous occasion was enough to set the entire blogerrati all a-twitter.

Five Sigmas?

What the heck is five sigmas and why did they write that as 99.9999 (six nines), just shy of 100? Sigma (σ) is known as the standard deviation. The variance from the norm either positive or negative variance from the expected value. So what the scientists were looking for was a confidence level in the data so significant, that there could not be any other conclusion. They usually accept 5 sigmas (99.9999) as their hurdle for acceptance. The only people who routinely deny five sigmas are TEA Party politicians and their followers.

Motorola in the 1970’s was searching for a level of excellence and stability and repeatability in their processes called Six Sigma. To give you an idea of Six Sigma and its impact on business, especially in the IT world from which Stanczyk did some of his best works. We would often discuss achieving six sigmas of “UP TIME” for our massive databases (Data Marts, Data Warehouses). In one year’s time there are 525,600 minutes. So to achieve six sigmas, we would need to make our databases available the entire year, except for less than 40 minutes of unavailability. The uptime would have to be more than 525,560 minutes out of 525,600. Quality/Certainty at this level comes at a very high price – so in the business world we would usually accept something less than Six Sigma.

In statistics 2 sigmas of deviation on either side of the bell curve (you remember the bell curve don’t you),  would mean you have 95% of the area under the curve, 3 sigmas would account for about 99.7%, so 5 sigmas accounts for 99.9999% of the area under the curve, leaving almost no room for error. That is a LOT of confidence.

The error function for five sigmas gives you:

0.999999426697 (so five sigmas is more accurately written as 99.9999426697 – when you multiply by 100 to get a percentage). The possibility of error is 1 minus the 5 sigmas or: 0.000000001973 . All zeroes until  the 9th decimal place. So that is pretty close to no chance for error.


Higgs Boson


Oh, today’s hullabaloo was really all about a quantum particle called the Higgs Boson (prosaically called by media types, the “God Particle”, which of course the godless, atheists (the majority) of scientists refuse to use   J  ) .  The Higgs Boson was named after Peter Higgs. Who was one of six people who came up with the theoretical model predicting the Higgs Boson. Higgs was annoyed that the particle became nicknamed the “God Particle” by the media. Higgs thought it might offend religious types. But in actuality it really just offends those who do not believe in any religion or who want to credit everything in the universe to “randomness”.


This boson is the one whose appearance quickly after the Big Bang is what gave mass to all other particles in the universe. Today, science has said they are 99.9999426697% (five sigmas) certain that the decay and energy release their experimental data that they have recorded show that the LHC created a Higgs Boson predicted by Dr Peter Higgs’ theoretical model.


Happy 4th of JULY!   Cue the 1812 Overture and the Fireworks (our big bang in the USA).

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