More on the 1992 top controversy November 21, 2006Posted by dorigo in physics, politics, science.
In the post I wrote two days ago about a new single top production measurement by CDF, Tony Smith left a very informative comment that I wish to make available directly as an individual post. It somehow puts a few things in their right place… Or at least it gives some perspective into the affair.
The facts mentioned in Tony’s comment are not new to me, since I had started working on CDF just in that very same year -and I remember that one of the very first articles I read was the limit on top quark production where the famous dilepton ttbar candidate was mentioned. An event that is indeed most likely the first clear top-antitop decay detected in a particle physics experiment.
Anyway, back to Tony’s comment.
I met Richard Dalitz at a meeting in Waco, Texas, in 2002.
He told me that he had written a letter to the New Scientist expressing his concerns about the events around 1992, but that “nobody ever read it”.
When I told him that I was at least one counterexample who had read his letter, we had extensive conversation about it. He made it clear to me that he was very unhappy with the personal conflicts that had arisen, and that he felt that the conflict was primarily due to irresponsible journalism by the New Scientist writer William Bown.
Unfortunately, Richard Dalitz is now deceased. So that his views might get a wider audience, here is a copy of his letter to the New Scientist (15 August 1992, page 47) regarding the matter, captioned “Top quark”:
“With regard to William Bown’s article on the so-called discovery of a top quark (This Week, 27 June), when I spoke with him I did not claim to have found the top quark.
That is a job for an experimenter, whereas I am a theoretical physicist.
The “earlier paper” he mentions gave a speculative analysis of an event already published by the collider detector (CDF) group at Fermilab, but there was no claim that this event was due to top-antitop production and decay.
We were completely open and told Bown the current situation in this research, and even sent him copies of our three papers on top-antitop event analysis.
The CDF group at Fermilab is not blocking the publication of any paper of ours.
I should note here that we would never publish data from any group,
unless it has given us formal permission to do so or has already published it itself. We have never done so in the past, and will not do so in the future.
When Bown asked me what, supposing that a top quark were found now,
would be the effect on the Tevatron Main Injector project, I told him that this upgrading programme would then have the highest priority, since the Tevatron would be the only accelerator capable of top quark studies before the next century. His statement in the last paragraph that money spent on the Tevatron upgrade would be wasted is opposite to what I said.
Department of theoretical physics
University of Oxford”.
I should mention that, back in 1992, I was interested in the Sliwa – Goldstein – Dalitz analysis because it seemed to support my theoretical calculation of Tquark mass.
When the book mentioned by Andrea, “The Evidence for the Top Quark: Objectivity and Bias in Collaborative Experimentation”, by Kent Staley, appeared, I noticed that it mentioned the Sliwa – Goldstein – Dalitz situation, and I had some e-mail correspondence with Kent Staley, who said:
“… Krys Sliwa … certainly was skeptical of the standard CDF
interpretation of the data, even after the 1995 Observation of Top
Quark paper (PRL 74(14): 2626), in particular suggesting that, even if
the top quark was contributing to the excess, there might be something
more there as well. I did not get specifics from him, however (he would
not agree to be interviewed in person, but only to answer by letter
questions that I submitted to him). …”.
I also had e-mail discussion with Krzysztof Sliwa, in which he said that he “… always felt that the “official” interpretation of the CDF top candidate
events in Run-I could be too simplistic …”.
That line of thought seems to be in the epilogue of Staley’s book, which says:
“… Sliwa struck a hopeful note with regard to just those things in the data that threaten our current understanding. Even when experimenters find that they have achieved experimenter’s success, they look more closely to see the interesting flaw in their achievement – the discrepancy that will mean, not failure necessarily, but the possibility of some new success to strive for. Just as the prelude to discovery should not be seen in terms of a monotonic preparation for the discovery that occurs, so the aftermath of discovery should not be seen as the straightforward unfolding of the consequences of the knowledge thus gained. CDF and D-zero went to great lengths to establish that they now know some things about the world that were previously unknown. Just as important is the probing of this new realm of information to find out just what it is that we do not yet know. …”.