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From a Boson to the Standard Model Higgs: A Case Study in Confirmation and Model Dynamics

Chall, Cristin and King, Martin and Mättig, Peter and Stöltzner, Michael (2019) From a Boson to the Standard Model Higgs: A Case Study in Confirmation and Model Dynamics. Synthese. ISSN 0039-7857

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Abstract

Our paper studies the anatomy of the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). We investigate the phases of this discovery, which led to a crucial reconfiguration of the model landscape of elementary particle physics and eventually to a confirmation of the Standard Model (SM). A keyword search of preprints covering the electroweak symmetry breaking (EWSB) sector of particle physics, along with an examination of physicists’ own understanding of the discovery as documented in semiannual conferences, has allowed us an empirical investigation of its model dynamics. From our analyses we draw two main philosophical lessons concerning the nature of scientific reasoning in a complex experimental and theoretical environment. For one, from a confirmation standpoint, some SM alternatives could be considered even more confirmed by the Higgs discovery than the SM. Nevertheless, the SM largely remains the commonly accepted account of EWSB. We present criteria for comparing degrees of confirmation and expose some limits of a purely logical approach to understanding the Higgs discovery as a victory for the SM. Second, we understand the persistence of SM alternatives in the face of disfavourable evidence by borrowing the Lakatosian concept of a research programme, where the core idea behind a group of models survives, while other aspects adapt to incoming data. In order to apply this framework to the model landscape of EWSB, we must introduce a new category of research programme, the model-group, and we test its viability using the example of composite Higgs models.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Chall, Cristinchall@physik.uni-bonn.de0000-0002-0992-5494
King, Martinking@physik.uni-bonn.de
Mättig, Peterpeter.mattig@cern.ch
Stöltzner, Michaelstoeltzn@mailbox.sc.edu
Keywords: Model dynamics, Particle physics, Confirmation, Lakatosian research programmes, Higgs boson, Empirical epistemology
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Mr. Cristin Chall
Date Deposited: 16 May 2019 14:12
Last Modified: 16 May 2019 14:12
Item ID: 15976
Journal or Publication Title: Synthese
Publisher: Springer
Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02216-7
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02216-7
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Models and Idealization
Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 2019
ISSN: 0039-7857
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15976

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