The Higgs What?

picture of simulated proton collision
Simulated Proton Collision – Wikipedia

Everybody’s talking about the Higgs boson discovery. They are calling it a discovery, but all they have are the tracks. Think Big Foot. When you find Big Foot tracks, you can call the reporters and say that since you saw Big Foot tracks, there is a ninety-nine point nine percent chance you have found Big Foot.

Now, nobody has ever seen a Big Foot, but they keep finding tracks. Nobody has ever produced a real Big Foot, and probably never will. That’s how regular folks like you and me see things.

That’s not how the particle physics world works. You see, you and I don’t live in that kind of world. Regular people cannot sit around inventing stuff all the time and stay out of the asylum. Particle physicists can. The real ones have PhD’s in that mystical subject, and their job is to make up stuff. Good gig if you can get it.

These guys have a whole zoo of particles that they have never seen, and yet they are sure they exist because they have found lots of tracks. This zoo includes such household names like fermions, quarks, neutrinos, muons, bosons, tau, photons, gravitons, leptons, and leotards. Sorry about the leotard thing. Who knows what they will come up with next.

They have particles for everything except they couldn’t figure what gives matter the property of mass. Even though we all know that matter has mass, the really bright guys could never figure out how. The rest of us didn’t know enough to care. There turns out to be some heavy physics involved.

An English physicist named Peter Higgs postulated that a small particle actually gave chunks of  matter the thing we call mass. He said it happened with a field (Higgs Field) by a mechanism called the Higgs Mechanism. Particle physicists built a mathematical model that consisted of nothing but particles, and the Higgs sounded plausible.

Since our intrepid particle trackers had tracks on most other sub-atomic particles, it became more and more important to tie it all together. That’s where the Higgs boson comes in and that’s how it got the name, The God Particle. It really does connect everything in the Standard Model of particle physics.

Now that they have some Higgs tracks, maybe they can all go home, and shut down their multi-billion dollar toy known as the Large Hadron Collider.

Nah, they won’t do that.

Discovering  Higgs tracks will launch a project that will be the next thing to eternal life. More money will be plowed into that concrete tunnel than the gross domestic product of the entire African continent. Now, they can really play with their zoo.

7 thoughts on “The Higgs What?”

  1. Okay, since the tagline for this website is “When I have something to say, this is where I’m gonna’ say it”, here’s what I have to say about this sham of an opinion:

    The analogy presented here is erroneous, and the tone and language used are both insulting to say the least. The “big foot tracks” of the Higgs boson particle are, by definition via the uncertainty principle, the best and ONLY proof possible of a sub-atomic particle’s existence. For instance, just because we only have “footprints” (better known as electromagnetic radiation records, or ‘pictures’ if you will) of electrons, atoms, and molecules, this article and its author would suggest that THOSE particles ALSO don’t exist, simply because you can’t hold them in your hand and say “yup, it’s there”.
    I was particularly disgusted with the phrase “Regular people cannot sit around inventing stuff all the time and stay out of the asylum. Particle physicists can…their job is to make up stuff”. There is such flippancy in these words. I cannot describe my frustration with such blatant disrespect and blind ignorance. He/she has a point, Particle physicists are far from normal; they’re insanely smart. But to infer that they belong in an insane asylum because their theories and discoveries are too difficult for him/her to understand is unspeakably insolent.
    While the very first step in the scientific method is technically to “make something up” (aka form a HYPOTHESIS), scientists then must test the hypothesis to ensure that all signs point to its validity. This author is basically suggesting that scientists come up with something that sounds good, slap the label “FACT” on it, and throw it into every textbook in the country, which is WRONG, and borders on libelous. Based on his/her attitude towards the incredible discovery made, he/she might as well call particle physics ‘black magic’ and have the scientists burned at the stake, because this ‘article’ smacks of the same mentality present in the Dark Ages. If society had taken this attitude with all of modern physics and modern chemistry, we would have no understanding or knowledge of such wonderful things as (but CERTAINLY not limited to) :
    -space travel
    -the time-space continuum
    -nuclear energy
    -solar energy
    -Brain and Heart Surgery
    and, my personal favorite, ELECTRICITY.
    To debase the work being done at CERN is to debase all of modern science. This is quite simply intolerable, ridiculous, and stupid.

    I do, however, give credit where credit is due. The costs associated with building, running, and repairing the Hadron Collider are immense, perhaps too immense. But what price can you truly put on understanding the inner-workings of our universe, our very existence? Is it not worth tremendous effort and expense to find out how we got here? How the universe works? And imagine the discoveries and inventions that are to follow in the coming decades, all of which very well may be based directly on this monumental discovery.

  2. Some mens toys are more expensive than other men’s toys. I don’t know how they expect to make use of this knowledge even if they can eventually prove it. It’s like the eleven deminsions os some string theories. So what? How long ago did Sir Issac Newton discover gravity? And, still no one canexplain gravity, although it can be quantified and is useful in many calculations. They want to know how God did it. They never will.

  3. Astute observations, COF. We are taught early on what the acceleration due to gravity is at the earth’s surface, how to calculate kinetic and static energy related to gravity, and how to calculate the trajectory of a missile. The same thing applies to electric field theory. What I believe is going on is that if science can ever identify what is actually causing these forces and fields, then we will truly understand this stuff, Maybe there are some additional practical applications, like, space travel, etc. I am not holding my breath, though. God did make a really interesting world, though.

  4. Hi, Scott. Thanks for dropping by. I always appreciate corrective surgery on my blogs.

    The article was written tongue in cheek, but obviously not showing enough cheek for everybody. There was a little hint in the “leortard” thing. Sorry it wasn’t enough for everybody.

    Having said that, there are some problems with your comment, quite possibly in semantics, but it still bears pointing out.

    You say, “While the very first step in the scientific method is technically to “make something up” (aka form a HYPOTHESIS), scientists then must test the hypothesis to ensure that all signs point to its validity“. That is only partially correct.

    Science is done properly by establishing a hypothesis. To test the hypothesis, you articulate a null hypothesis and set about to falsify the null statement. You see, you can prove an hypothesis all day long, but if you haven’t falsified the null hypothesis, all you work could be without meaning. In the case of particle physics,that is exactly what they are doing, falsifying the null hypothesis.

    The null hypothesis is tested against real experimental data. That’s where the tracks become problematic. You will never see a subatomic particle, and your proxies for those particles need to be accurate. The tracks they look at are probably just fine.

    Their statements say that they are rejecting the null hypothesis at the five sigma level. Three days ago, they were leaking that they were at the four sigma level, and physicists do not use the word, “discovery” unless they can show a statistical level of five sigma. The rest of us will settle for three or four sigma in social science, and many other sciences.

    As stated in their press release, things are looking good for the Higgs, Having gotten to a five sigma level in some cases. However, they are still hedging a bit until they can run all the data from the experiments. As they said, they are not there, yet.

    You also say, “This author is basically suggesting that scientists come up with something that sounds good, slap the label “FACT” on it, and throw it into every textbook in the country, which is WRONG,…

    I agree totally with that part of your statement. I know I am taking it out of context, but it is important for you to understand that scientists are continually slapping the “FACT” label on bad science, and sticking it into textbooks all across the country, and that is WRONG.

    Here is an example.

    When it comes to global warming, we agree that carbon dioxide causes atmospheric warming due to the greenhouse effect. However, it may come as a surprise to you that climatologists have never falsified the null hypothesis that the warming we have seen is not outside the natural variability of the climate system. It may be impossible to falsify this null hypothesis, but just showing global average temperature is rising is meaningless in terms of human influences.

    Now, look at the garbage appearing in textbooks around the country. The world is not going to hell in a hand basket, and carbon dioxide induced warming is not threatening to destroy the earth, cause famines,or pandemics, or any of the other catastrophes claimed by our politically motivated scientific establishment. There is no empirically based study that shows that. It is always speculative model scenarios they use to make their case. That is not science.

    Many of the so-called scientific medical studies are flawed. There are studies that show that most medical studies are flawed in one way or another. The problems are most likely in the data, or the statistical manipulation of the data.

    Be careful when praising science. It is a fickle god.

  5. Actually, we DO know what makes gravity work. All objects exist on a plane of sorts called the time-space continuum, and all objects on that plane warp the continuum, like a metal ball on a rubber sheet. Denser objects warp the sheet more, and thus have a greater gravitational pull.

  6. Thank you, Bob, for correcting me on the scientific theory. I wrote my response perhaps a bit too hastily. I also like the point you made regarding global warming. And while you are right that PARTS of the scientific community claim the theories put forth by Al Gore are FACTS, others still hold that the earth is merely going through the natural fluctuations in climate change which have been present since before the first ice age. I and others like me would agree with you, that that “is not science”.

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