Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Choose Your Own Intelligence Level

It has come to my attention that people of varying levels of intelligence are on the Internet. Amazingly, it turns out that some people are smarter than others. It has also come to my attention that you can't go too far over someone's head when discussing things, or else they're not going to be able to follow along.

Therefore, today we offer two news items for people of two different levels of intelligence. Choose which one applies to you.

For one segment of our clientele, buzz is circulating that the Higgs boson- the particle that gives mass to all other particles- may have been found by the people at CERN. The key word is 'may'. There's a lot of data to analyze, and the threshold for confirmation in this field is high enough that when Higgs-favorable results came up back in December, to the point that it was judged there was only a 0.13% chance of it being a lucky shot, it was not called a discovery, but merely 'evidence'. Something of that level of certainty is called a 3-sigma signal. They want a 5-sigma signal- which gives only a 0.000028% chance of a lucky result- before they call it. (To compare, those are the same odds of picking 5 correct numbers in the Powerball drawing.)

What's happened is that two separate locations have given 4-sigma results, which taken separately would not be enough, but taken together, they might, according to speculation, be able to be considered a 5-sigma. Think something like a combined no-hitter. The thing is, though, while the scientific community wants to make sure they're correct on calling the Higgs, they really, really, really want to call the Higgs. They might be inclined to make a premature call, and are definitely inclined to pass along anything that looks like it's leading to a Higgs call. So, grain of salt. Buzz is still just buzz.

For the other segment of our clientele, the segment that needs not one, not two, but seven distinct reasons why picking a fight with a bouncer isn't the brightest of ideas, here they are. Please stop fighting bouncers.

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