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This 1000$ says there ain’t new physics at the TeV scale September 4, 2006

Posted by dorigo in games, news, physics, science.

Ok, I think I have been in the HEP community long enough to experience the boredom of a unending string of Standard Model successes and the systematic killing of 3-sigma inconsistencies.

What do we have to show for these 30 years+ of investigations, smart tests, cunning double ratios, global fits, and the like ? Let me try and summarize – despite I am sure I am going to do a very incomplete job:

– Neutrinos mix and have mass. Ok, that is something. But it does not change by much the physics of electroweak interactions.

– Rb is off, but by less than three sigma.

– the gluon distribution function is larger than it used to be at high x.

– low-energy QCD has made big steps forward, but it also did not change the picture much.

– Radiative corrections imply the existence of the Higgs boson, or something else yielding the proper effect on measurable electroweak parameters. Ok, but the Higgs is part of the SM.

What else ? In Run I, CDF did have a few inconsistencies to keep hope alive, but they died one by one under the blows of merciless re-analysis or more data. HERA had these leptoquark signals, but they died away. Aleph had fancy signals at some point, but it also bubbled down…. One could make this list much longer, but things would not change much.

Indeed, I think the overal picture gets more bleak by the day. Today, I learned that there is such a tremendous amount of self-consistency in the SM results that enter the determination of the unitarity triangle (see a previous post below), that non-SM processes modifying observables determined at 1+ loop level are really going to be tough to design, since they either must not violate CP at a detectable level,or they get automatically ruled out before they are even conceived.

So, while I am not rich, I think I have 1,000 US dollars that I can invest in a bet. Here is my challenge:

I am willing to bet a thousand dollars that no new elementary particles (exotic ones, beyond those included in the Standard Model AND beyond the SM Higgs) will be discovered in the next 4.5 years, that is before December 31st, 2010. That is enough time to allow CMS and Atlas to really dig deep with their data into the unknown.


The first physicist who is publically known, who earned less than 100,000 US$ in 2006 (if you are too wealthy I cannot take you, sorry – the bet amount should be slightly uncomfortable to part with, otherwise there is no sense in betting!), and who takes my bet here, will win my 1,000 dollars if any experiment publishes a unquestionable (>5 sigma effects) discovery of a new massive elementary particle before the above date. On the other hand, if no such thing occurs, he will pay me the same amount of money.

Being publically known means that I have a means of twisting your arm if you refuse to pay the bet… And I keep the option of refusing a bet offer without having to explain the reason.

So, you think you fit the bill, and you are sure that LHC will find new physics ? Drop me a line, you are going to earn your five minutes’ worth of typing!

(I have to admit: I would be really happy to have to pay this bet!)



1. anon for now - September 4, 2006

To clarify your bet, what do you define as a SM Higgs, and at what level would this have to be confirmed by an experiment as this can open a whole host of questions that may be unanswerable by the LHC…

2. Guess Who - September 5, 2006

Problem: I don’t want to bet against you on this one, I want to bet with you! Now what?

Here’s an idea: head over to tradesports.com and tell them to create a “new particles” contract, so SM bulls and bears alike can get (or, more likely, lose) their piece of the action.

3. Peter Woit - September 5, 2006

Hi Tommaso,

Also not willing to bet you on this. Your bet is a smart one, since if nothing new shows up, we’ll all be depressed, but at least one of us will have an extra $1000.

I gather this is kind of a bet against supersymmetry, and, limited to that I’d also take your side of the bet.

4. Alejandro Rivero - September 5, 2006

What side of the bet the composite higgs is?

5. Guess Who - September 5, 2006

I’d say it depends on what it’s a composite of. In my book, known particles held together by known interactions (e.g. a top condensate) would not qualify. Preons combining into a Higgs certainly would.

6. Lubos Motl Wannabe - September 5, 2006

I don’t want to bet, but can I have the $1000 bill anyhow?

Lubos Motl Wannabe

7. Jacques Distler - September 5, 2006

Several things about the way the bet is structured make me unwilling to take it.

Foremost is that “success’ is phrased as a 5σ discovery of a new elementary particle. I’d be willing to bet that the LHC would see a 5σ deviation from Standard Model predictions. I’m more sceptical that such a deviation will be definitively ascribed to a particular model of new physics (and, even more stringently, to a particular new elementary particle) in the time frame in question.

I gather that the LHC will not run at its design energy until sometime in 2008. And who knows when it will reach its design luminosity. You’re requiring sufficient data to have been taken, analyzed (and published?) by the end of 2010 to have firmly established the existence of some new particle. Dependng on the particle, I’m not sure how likely that is, under the circumstances.

8. dorigo - September 5, 2006

Ok, I think the consortium of those betting with me against new discoveries has grown to three people – although PW seems to want to bet only against susy.

Still nobody who offers to take the bet yet. The available prize has grown to 2000+1000 so far (pending a confirmation that GW and PW are serious about it, and pending GW’s coming out of anonimity).

Jacques: we might refine the terms if you like. But 4.5 years are a long time for a bet already… People die in our world unfortunately, our half-life being O(40) years. However, I am willing to negotiate.


9. Jacques Distler - September 5, 2006

Like I said, I think I’d be willing (but only just barely willing) to bet that they will have seen some 5σ departure from Standard Model predictions by that date.

But 4.5 years are a long time for a bet already…

Imagine if you’d offered the bet 3 years ago!

The relevant date is when they start doing physics runs at the design energy and design luminosity. I think we’re still 2 years away from that. Allowing time for the data analysis (particularly, if it’s something surprising, and possibly ambiguous in its interpretation), and there’s not a whole lotta window left for discovery, during the time period you’ve allotted.

10. Gordon Watts - September 6, 2006

Hey. I’ll take the bet. But…

1) I’ll do only $250. I was going to do the full $1k, but then I realized that I just had a baby. So, no. Maybe I coudl bet $1k if I was a full professor. 😉

2) The $250 goes to a charity of your choice. I’ll publically congradulate you, of course (i.e. go on record). If I win I’ll expect you to donate $250 to a charity of your choice.

3) The time frame isn’t a year. Rather, it is 1 years after ATLAS/CMS get 10 fb-1 each (if I read the plots right they were expecting something like 5 fb-1 or more by the end of 2008 – but this number can be discussed). As you know, the TeV “turned on” on time, but it took forever before we matched the Run I lumi (I almost got burned professionally by that). Further, watching the time lag between CDF/D0 lumi delivered and results makes me think 1 year after delivery is about right.

What say you?

11. dorigo - September 6, 2006

Hi Jacques,

the thing is, my bet is not just about theory, but about the standstill we are facing. The risk that experiments will be further delayed (and in the past, delays have meant cancelation for some!) is part of the bargain of taking the bet. That is how I see it: if we have to wait 4.5 more years for something new, we might be switching to astroparticle physics now!

Anyway, I am willing to change it to Gordon’s formulation if you wish. Only, I am left with 750$ to bet because I am going to take Gordon’s offer…


12. dorigo - September 6, 2006

Hi Gordon,
first of all, congratulations for the new baby, and for just realizing what it means 🙂

Ok, I think your formula is fair, and I am hereby accepting it, please confirm below.
We call new physics whatever elementary particle beyond a SM Higgs boson is found by any HEP experiment in the time frame you mentioned. I think we should not be too picky with definitions, we are gentlemen…


13. dorigo - September 6, 2006

Hi Alejandro,

I guess the composite Higgs would be on the side I’d have to pay money to…


14. mr X - September 6, 2006

and finding nothing, not even the Higgs?

15. Tommaso - September 6, 2006

Well, Mr X… I think I would bet that the Higgs IS found. It is a matter of luminosity needed as a function of Higgs boson mass there. There is, indeed, a region where the LHC experiments might have a hard time finding the Higgs.

Say the Tevatron closes well before collecting 4 fb-1, because of a beam incident or something else. Say the Higgs is at 115 GeV. Then, even 10 fb-1 of data might not be enough for CMS and Atlas, or barely so. Indeed, in this picture as Gordon notes above we might need more than 4.5 years to get discovery of something – the Higgs in this case.


16. Gordon Watts - September 6, 2006

Done! Thought I realize there was a type-o in my message. I meant to say that if I win, you donate the 250 to a charity of my choice, and if you win I donate 250 to a charity of your choice.

I’ll put it on my blog as well. It might be a day or two before it shows (but I’ll link back here) cause, well, I have no time! 😉

17. dorigo - September 6, 2006

Ok Gordon, very good then. Of course right-wing political charity donations are not something I would consider (like the Nazi party of America or such)… I think we do not run that risk.
If I win, I’ll ask you to donate to Emergency – but this is preliminary.


18. Jacques Distler - September 6, 2006

the thing is, my bet is not just about theory, but about the standstill we are facing.

I’m not willing to bet on the prowess of the accelerator physicists. What they do is black magic to me (impressive as all heck, but still black magic).

So I prefer a reformulation along the lines of Gordon Watts. I would be willing to wager $750 on the proposition that

Within 12 months of their having accumulated 10 inverse fb of data, ATLAS and/or CMS will announce a 5σ departure from Standard Model predictions.

Sound good?

19. dorigo - September 6, 2006

Dear Jacques,

I think I prefer to extend the time limit to 1 year after 10 fb-1 are collected by CMS and Atlas, as I did with Gordon, than to agree to “some” 5-sigma deviation … Which, as we both well know, means very little in the HEP community. There were so many 5-sigma effects in the past few years that _I_ would take that bet! The bet, in my way of looking at it, is against something _being_ there, and precisely an elementary particle extraneous to the SM.

Let me know… I still have 750$ that say nothing will be found of the kind stated above!

20. dorigo - September 6, 2006

Oh! As soon as I posted my reply to Jacques, I saw he had a similar one out…

So Jacques, done deal. I prefer to keep the money if I win this one bet with you… 250$ to Emergency is enough 🙂 So if you agree that no charity is involved, we’re on.
In which case, I am very happy to have placed my 1000$…
It will make things more exciting!


PS this implies that you make less than 100,000$ a year, right ? I assure you the same goes with me 🙂

21. dorigo - September 6, 2006

And to specify, I agree to your terms, although they do not precisely match my original intent. Some deviation from the SM == a new effect. Ok, but it must be unquestionable, really – CDF had a 6-sigma effect out a few years ago!

I think we are gentlemen and this makes the agreement much easier to reach. So confirm below, and we’re on…

22. Jacques Distler - September 6, 2006

Sounds good.

I guess we’re on, then …

23. dorigo - September 7, 2006


24. dorigo - September 7, 2006

The very first comment (by Anon for now) in this column was marked as spam by my filter for reasons I don’t quite understand… I have accepted it. Now, it is not of much relevance since the bet has been closed, but the bottomline of my answer would be that this is a bet between people that in a way or another belong to the HEP community, who have a reputation, and who would not argue endlessly for a dollar more or a dollar less. So a SM Higgs is what we think it is – and we think quite a lot. If CMS and Atlas decide a signal they observe looks like something different, tastes like something else, and does not have the correct properties of a SM higgs, and if the international community starts agreeing that the SM is disproven on that one, I lose my bet…

25. Fred - September 7, 2006

I’m trying to figure out what precisely has been bet on and what are the agreed upon terms for all involved. Maybe you could display some graphics to clarify the point each side is favoring. As ‘fans in attendance’ are we observers going to have some sort of scoreboard available, complete with periodic updates? What kind of odds are we looking at for some outside action? May the best side win.

26. dorigo - September 7, 2006

Hi Fred,

unfortunately this is a bit more complicated than a game of hockey. It is not as if before an experiment publishes a 5-sigma discovery it is likely to say “hey this is a promising 1-sigma effect”, “hmm the effect just became 2.5 sigma” and the like 😉

So there is not much to be spectators of, if not HEP in general. But the terms are clear if you read the previous comments in this column. That is, clear enough that those who placed the bet understand them.

If there are no public results showing that the SM is wrong by the time CMS and Atlas have collected 10 fb-1 + 1 year, I win the bets. If the opposite happens, I have to pay the bets. Then, Gordon agreed to bet on new elementary particles, while Jacques twisted my arm into betting on any effect that is evidence of physics outside the SM.


27. I’ll Take That Bet « Life as a Physicist - September 10, 2006

[…] in his This 1000$ says there ain’t new physics at the TeV scale post. He is currently at a conference and the experimental results are depressingly in agreement with the Standard Model: Indeed, I think the overall picture gets more bleak by the day. Today, I learned that there is such a tremendous amount of self-consistency in the SM results that enter the determination of the unitarity triangle (see a previous post below), that non-SM processes modifying observables determined at 1+ loop level are really going to be tough to design, since they either must not violate CP at a detectable level,or they get automatically ruled out before they are even conceived. […]

28. A suspicious excess of same-sign lepton pairs… « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - September 25, 2006

[…] Interesting stuff – but my 1000$ bet (https://dorigo.wordpress.com/2006/09/04/this-1000-says-there-aint-new-physics-at-the-tev-scale/) is still safe. The most likely explanation for the excess ? A systematic underestimate of QCD backgrounds IMHO. […]

29. WZ production discovered! « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - October 26, 2006

[…] One last thing to note: for years, the ideas of finding Supersymmetry from the clean multi-lepton signals the cascade decays of SUSY particles has been advertised… Now that we start seeing the very rare standard model processes yielding multi-leptons, and we still see no new physics, we have one reason to frown… Or at least, one more reason for betting 1000 dollars on the absence of SUSY at LHC (see https://dorigo.wordpress.com/2006/09/04/this-1000-says-there-aint-new-physics-at-the-tev-scale/ )! […]

30. What will be the next discovery ? « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - February 5, 2007

[…] I wonder what the readers of this blog think. How about telling me here what you think will be discovered next ? You know my vote already, it is the SM Higgs -and nothing else of course, but that is only my personal opinion, and that of this 1000$ bill. […]

31. Tripitaka - February 18, 2007

Hi Tommaso, good on you for publicising this bet, it adds a bit of spice for ignorant HEP onlookers like me… I remember at uni I assumed that the SM successor would have been well and truly bedded down by 2000, now I’m wondering if it’ll happen in my lifetime.

“What do we have to show for these 30 years+ of investigations, smart tests, cunning double ratios, global fits, and the like ?” …has anyone worked out what that might have cost I wonder? No doubt its hard to apportion costs fairly but I’m curious whether any scientific challenge in history might have consumed as much in international resources?

Anyway, best wishes with your research (though I hope you lose your bet hehe).

32. dorigo - February 18, 2007

Hi Tripitaka,

I concur, we are stranded in the middle of the ocean in HEP and we do not know how much longer will it take for winds to start blowing on the sea again. It could be a lifetime. It could blow lots of money to do it, but I think it is not wasted money – 10G$ for the ILC is the price the US is considering to spend for a new bomber, as my friend Tony Smith pointed out yesterday here.

I also hope I will lose my bet, by the way!


33. A Sbottom candidate event in CDF ? « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - April 10, 2007

[…] Tevatron” at Moriond QCD. Of course, I pay particular attention to SUSY searches these days, having bet 1,000 US$ on the absence of any such things as supersymmetric particles. And while I usually know what is […]

34. Lonely in Perugia « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - January 30, 2008

[…] a real surprise (I sort of knew that already), but it got me thinking that I might not be alone in believing that the LHC will not discover new physics beyond the standard […]

35. Mandeep Gill - June 5, 2008

Tommaso- i finally read through this bet, and am impressed that you really *did* do it! i tried to take people up on such a thing a while ago, but wasn’t able to get any takers. i actually would be willing to bet Gordy Kane himself (and like you, be happy to lose it) though i bet (!) he’s already got other wagers arranged! (?)

36. dorigo - June 6, 2008

So you are a skeptic too ? I am sure you could arrange one with Gordy Kane. Others around in the web are always willing to take things of this kind too. Only, be sure to restrict it to people with a reputation, and with a salary not too different from yours.

Good luck…

37. Of being bold « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - June 28, 2008

[…] have made my own very wild and risky bet a couple of years ago, when I predicted that the LHC will not find any signal for new physics […]

38. When increasing the collider energy does not pay off « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - July 14, 2008

[…] that of supersymmetric particles showing up in multijet datasets with large missing energy, but I try to keep believing, against all odds, that it will not be the […]

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