I haven’t finished writing my post on experimental design, but a discussion I’m engaged in elsewhere reminded me of a particularly dramatic example of the divide between scientific reporting and actual scientific research. In 2012, CERN announced that they had found the infamous Higgs Boson predicted by the standard model (SM). This particle is so famous that long before the explosive media coverage in 2012 references to it & discussions of it were featured in sources as diverse as popular science magazines to the TV show Numb3rs. So when it was announced that “the god particle” was found, even a small sample of the huge volume of popular science articles would give one the impression that particle physics was wrapped up or even that we’d explained all unanswered questions in quantum physics and cosmology. Yet after a few months, the media moved on. More importantly, there was no subsequent explosion of media coverage that showed we’d learned anything from the 2012 discovery. Still more important, after 2 years physics literature has continually included papers not just on this discovery, but on whether or not it actually is the SM’s Higgs Boson:
“While the importance of the discovery of the Standard Model (SM)-like Higgs boson by the CMS and ATLAS experiments [1–6] cannot be easily overstated, many experimental tests remain in order to determine whether the new particle is truly the Standard Model Higgs boson.”
Yu, F. (2014). Anatomizing exotic production of the Higgs boson. Physical Review D, 90(1), 015009.
Note that this is from 2014. Nor is it alone. For one other example, we have another 2014 paper that says of the discovered particle “the current precision of its measured properties does not yet allow one to definitely identify it as the standard model Higgs boson.”
Bernardi, G., & Herndon, M. (2014). Standard model Higgs boson searches through the 125 GeV boson discovery. Reviews of Modern Physics, 86(2), 479.
I’ll leave for another day the reason that after 2 years, we are still wondering what exactly was discovered as it concerns the nature of particle and quantum physics, not the divide between scientific reporting and actual scientific research.