A 33-page paper that gives a refined estimate of the mass of the Higgs boson to ±0.25% has just been published (Aad, G. et al. (ATLAS Collaboration, CMS Collaboration) Physical Review Letters Vol. 114 191803 (2015) 191803.

The work itself, some of which was done by my colleagues at Bristol University, analyzes the huge number of results from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. It is an incredible achievement. But that’s not the main reason why it has hit the headlines.The number of measurements analyzed is not the only huge number in this paper. There is another huge number; the number of authors. The results occupy the first nine pages of the paper; the list of authors (all 5,154 of them!) occupies the rest.

The number 5154 is itself very interesting, because in standard mathematical terminology it is:

Abundant That is, the sum of all its positive divisors (except itself) is greater than itself (if they weren’t, the number would be deficient).

Composite Not prime

Square-free Its prime decomposition contains no repeated factors

and finally it is …

Evil It has an even number of 1’s in its binary expansion (as opposed to odious, which it would be if it had an odd number of 1’s in its binary expansion).

It occurred to me to wonder how many of these terms might apply to the authors themselves. Obviously they are abundant, but not composite, because many are in the prime of their careers. Nor are they square-free; in 1950s terminology, the majority of scientists are certainly squares.

That leaves evil. The anti-scientists among us may consider the scientists as Frankensteins, delving into things that shouldn’t concern us. But I believe that they doing just the opposite, constructing the next step on a stairway to a heaven of understanding. It is a stairway that we desperately need, and its importance cannot be over-valued. Spread the word!

ADDENDUM This work will not garner a Nobel Prize, but, if it did, the prize would presumably have to be shared out equally (yes, I know that only a maximum of three can get one, but let’s suppose fairness just for a moment). In that case, each author would receive

1/5154 = 194 x 10-6 of a Nobel

Now 194 is Composite, Odious and Deficient. Perhaps these could be COD Nobels? Or, more precisely, microCOD Nobels.


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