BATAVIA, IL–President Bush met with members of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory research team Monday to discuss a mathematical error he recently discovered in the famed laboratory's "Improved Determination Of Tau Lepton Paths From Inclusive Semileptonic B-Meson Decays" report.
"I'm somewhat out of my depth here," said Bush, a longtime Fermilab follower who describes himself as "something of an armchair physicist." "But it seems to me that, when reducing the perturbative uncertainty in the determination of Vub from semileptonic Beta decays, one must calculate the rate of Beta events with a standard dilepton invariant mass at a subleading order in the hybrid expansion. The Fermilab folks' error, as I see it, was omitting that easily overlooked mathematical transformation and, therefore, acquiring incorrectly re-summed logarithmic corrections for the b-quark mass. Obviously, such a miscalculation will result in a precision of less than 25 percent in predicting the resulting path of the tau lepton once the value for any given decaying tau neutrino is determined."
The Bush correction makes it possible for scientists to further study the tau lepton, a subatomic particle formed by the collision of a tau neutrino and an atomic nucleus.
Bush resisted criticizing the Fermilab scientists responsible for the error, saying it was "actually quite small" and that "anyone could have made the mistake."
"High-energy physics is a complex and demanding field, and even top scientists drop a decimal point or two every now and then," Bush said. "Also, I might hasten to add that what I pointed out was more a correction of method than of mathematics. Experimental results on the Tevatron accelerator would have exposed the error in time, anyway."
Fermilab director Michael Witherell said the president was being too modest "by an order of magnitude."
"In addition to gently reminding us that even the best minds in the country are occasionally fallible, President Bush has saved his nation a few million dollars," Witherell said. "We would have made four or five runs on the particle accelerator with faulty data before figuring out what was wrong. But, thanks to Mr. Bush, we're back on track."
"It's true, I dabbled in the higher maths during my Yale days," said Bush, who spent three semesters as an assistant to Drs. Kasha and Slaughter at Yale's renowned Sloane High-Energy Physics Lab. "But I didn't have the true gift for what Gauss called 'the musical language in which is spoken the very universe.' If I have any gift at all, it's my instinct for process and order."
Continued Bush: "As much as I enjoyed studying physics at Yale, by my junior year it became apparent that I could far better serve humanity through a career in statecraft."
While he says he is "flattered and honored" by the tau-neutrino research team's request that he review all subsequent Fermilab publications on lepton-path determination, Bush graciously declined the "signal honor."
"This sort of thing is best left to the likes of [Thomas] Becher and [Matthias] Neubert, not a dilettante such as myself," Bush said. "I just happened to have some time on the plane coming back from the European G8 summit, decided to catch up on some reading, and spotted one rather small logarithmic branching-ratio misstep in an otherwise flawless piece of scientific scholarship. Anyone could have done the same."