Now everybody can celebrate and eat turkey on July 4th.
(ps, America - you still have stuff in the loft. If you want to pop round and take it some time... )
They predicted, they found, they announced.
People seem rather excited by this. I'm glad that such a large and expensive project got some results but what does it really mean for us all? Can I have my warp drive now?
Yeah, I also am not entirely sure what all this means. We can get closer to understanding the properties of mass - inertia and gravitation? Potentially pretty sweet, but I'm guessing anti-gravitation is not likely any time soon.
Just to be precise, the Higgs boson was not found. It'll be at least a year before it is confirmed that this newfound particle is a Higgs boson.
Anyway, it's too early to say what the impact of this discovery will be. Worst case scenario, this particle is the unique symmetry-breaking Higgs boson proposed by the Brout-Englert-Higgs mechanism within the Standard Model. In that case, the SM is once again confirmed and nothing changes, save for some physicists starting to research whether the (low) mass found for H° has any significance w.r.t. the mass of other subatomic particles. It could slow down theoretical physics in that field for some time, but ultimately (many years) lead to interesting results in the theory of gravity.
Best case scenario, this particle is not Higgs at all, or is one of the many Higgs candidates for a supersymmetry model. Then, parts of the SM need to be rewritten inside a greater unifying theory, leading potentially to a lot of exciting ideas, experiments, models and applications. Probably nothing earth-shattering for a while, but very stimulating for the field of theoretical physics.
A new discovery hasn't actually empirically touched the SM in like the last 30 years, and this touches one of the most interesting parts of it and gives it some empirical backing, which turns it from speculative philosophy to actual science about our reality. I mean it's involved in the literal creation of matter... It's a discovery for the ages when it gets fully confirmed.
At least I'm very interested in what our reality actually is, not what someone's opinion of it is... which is just as valid as anyone else's opinion. Or to quote CP Scott, facts are sacred, opinion is free.
Oddly, I'm quite pleased/excited about it despite knowing that it'll make no difference to anything but textbooks and some other theories that will make no difference to anything but textbooks.
I was born too early, about 100 years too early. I want to be able to answer the question "Where were you when the first off-world colony was founded/warp drive successfully tested/sentient AI activated/aliens contacted/true VR mass-marketted?", not "Where were you when this new particle that changed nothing tangible was discovered ?"
I know I'm being a luddite but I want lasers dammnit!
100 years from now, the world economy will have long collapsed, no doubt, and science experiments like this won't be occurring due to lack of resources. Welcome to reality as opposed to speculative fiction. (There's a band out there called "We Were Promised Jetpacks," which is hilarious, if slightly dark; no idea what their music is like, but they get points for the name.)
"Turned down opportunity to go on 1-hour radio programme to discuss the religious significance of the Higgs particle since there isn't any."
Cute but of course there's religious significance. The root meaning of religion is re-ligare (to bind - back together, same root as from ligament), the conceptual strands that connect all the pieces of reality significant to human life together into a universal whole. The Higgs Boson is a major piece to the origin story of our universe & humans, so it has great religious significance. This guy either just (wrongly IMO) assumed the only spiritual significance it could have would be how it fits in with the Christian biblical narrative, or (probably rightly) assumed that's the only thing the radio host would want to talk about.
This would be exciting, and people should find it earth shattering beyond this little niche of particle physics. Back in the day people realized how earth shattering the Maxwell EM equations were, special and general relativity, quantum physics... You'd think the SM would be the most inspiring & exciting bit of all, since it's on the bleeding edge of everything we know all packaged together into a towering theory... It just doesn't brand as well I guess.Best case scenario, this particle is not Higgs at all, or is one of the many Higgs candidates for a supersymmetry model. Then, parts of the SM need to be rewritten inside a greater unifying theory, leading potentially to a lot of exciting ideas, experiments, models and applications. Probably nothing earth-shattering for a while, but very stimulating for the field of theoretical physics.
Last edited by demagogue; 4th Jul 2012 at 18:14.
It's exciting either way. If the Higgs Boson like Higgs Boson particle checks out as an actual Higgs Boson particle many more times then, granted we don't have the fun of having to work out what the hell it is all over again, but it does mean that the Standard Model for Particle Physics is robust enough to give us confidence to start making a bunch of other predictions about life the universe and everything. Which is a whole other exciting. Probably.
I imagine that when people first started messing around with electromagnetism in the 19th Century most common folk wondered how the hell that was going to help improve sanitation or working conditions for labourers. And here we are 135 years later making energy dance to our precise whim - playing with particle collisions and effortlessly transmitting music, art, conversations and knowledge instantly around the world in high definition.
The idea that in 100 years time we might also have the same sort of mastery over matter as we do energy is pretty bad-ass.
I can't stand the "God particle" label. It's just hubris.
The standard model is just the best model of particle physics we have until we find something better. I think that attributing religious significance to it is akin to holding it up as truth, and we don't want to go there.
Even if this is confirmed to be the Higgs boson, it only reinforces the standard model but doesn't confirm it. There are still a bunch of holes, such as why the Higgs boson is so light, the lack of a theoretical explanation for dark matter and dark energy, neutrinos that change flavor, and the imbalance of matter and antimatter in the universe.
We've been over-confident in our understanding of the universe before. Back circa 1876 some of the most famous scientists of the day thought we knew it all, given the set of mathematical theories that explained observed phenomena in mechanics, thermodynamics, gravity, electricity, magnetism, and light, and with the periodic table and Kelvin proclaiming the age of the Earth. That lasted maybe a decade before Maxwell's aether theory was blown away by the Michaelson-Morley experiment. And then over the next few decades came special relativity, atomic chemisty, general relativity, and quantum mechanics.
We know more than we knew then, but in the grand scheme of things we still don't know shit. Every time we've peeled back a layer we've observed the universe is stranger and more interesting than we thought.
"Scientists discover the meaning of life. How the discovery of the God Particle may lead to revolutionary advances in medicine, science, health and long life"
The above was a news headline on Perth's Channel 7 television news show
My understanding is that it's a Boson particle as described by Higgs. The uncertainties aren't whether or not it is a Higgs, rather what type of Higgs it is (Higgs & Co. described a variety of different possible sub-characteristics a Higgs Boson could have). It's a Higgs 'type' particle in respect to whether it's a blue Higgs or a yellow Higgs rather than a particle that might be a cat like creature if you squint a bit but really it's a dog.
It is a genuine real McCoy Higgs Boson confirmed at high Sigma 5 confidence in multiple experiments.
Also, legend has it it was named The Goddamn Particle, after it's elusiveness. A sheepish editor objected to strong language the and renamed it nonsensically The God Particle.
Last edited by jay pettitt; 5th Jul 2012 at 09:47.
It's a boson that is consistent with two decay channels for the Higgs (γγ and ZZ) among four observable by the LHC. More results are required to establish clarity over other channels (clarity over WW channel will be established, but the absence of any significant event in the ττ channel is of particular interest) and statistical repartition of events before you can confirm it's a Higgs, period.
Last edited by Briareos H; 5th Jul 2012 at 09:42.
BTW, everybody interested in this story should read The Theory of Almost Everything, probably the best book for laypeople on the standard model. Even if it's of course far from the final theory, the SM is still very special, and that book made a good case that it's one of the greatest and most successful creations of humankind, developed over half a century by 100s of the smartest researchers on the planet over their entire careers ... and even if parts of it have to be rewritten, it's going to stay around no matter what.
The fact we have to spend billions and billions of dollars and years of work to identify even the smallest data that would say something new about it (and even that is confirming predictions) I think is a testament that this theory is on the edge of every physical process that humans care about. It's a far cry from something like the aether theory, which just completely fell apart under scrutiny. There may come better & deeper theories to describe reality like Super-string Theory, but at that point we're getting so far from the everyday reality that humans can deal with that people still question whether it can ever be a science at all... If it can't, then SM plus a few tweaks may well stand on the bleeding edge of what we can hope to understand. I think that makes it special not out of hubris, but actually out of modesty. This may be as far as we can go, and we can feel privileged we got ourselves this far.
Well we have at least (probably) verified our explanation for why there is a hat and not just subatomic particles charging around the cosmos at light speed.
Hat-related experiments make me uncomfortable.