Skip to comments.Veteran physicist hopes secret of universe lies underground
Posted on 04/07/2008 9:18:54 AM PDT by Brilliant
British scientist Peter Higgs, whose work is the cornerstone of modern physics, said Monday he is putting champagne on ice in the hope a new experiment confirms his theories on how the universe works.
Higgs, a veteran professor at Edinburgh University, told journalists in a rare interview that he hopes a vast experiment in the tunnels deep underground the CERN laboratory on the Franco-Swiss border could finally prove the existence of an elusive and unstable particle to which he has lent his name.
The so-called "Higgs Boson" has been dubbed the 'God Particle' because so many have searched for it but no-one has seen it, despite Higgs using scientific deductions to claim its existence as far back as 1964.
Now the white-haired scientist hopes to be vindicated in time for his 80th birthday on May 29, 2009.
"I've asked my GP to keep me alive a little longer," he joked on the sidelines of a visit to CERN.
The thousands of scientists who work there have spent years preparing for the experiment which will deploy the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) -- essentially the world's biggest atom-smasher -- in a bid to recreate the conditions of the 'Big Bang' when the universe is deemed to have been created.
The LHC will whizz protons to 99.9999 percent of the speed of light in two parallel beams in a ring-shaped tunnel 27 kilometres (16.9 miles) long and up to 175 metres (568 feet) below ground.
In top gear, the LHC will generate nearly a billion collisions per second. Above ground, a farm of 3,000 computers, one of the largest in the world, will instantly crunch this number down to about 100 collisions that are of the most interest.
If the LHC discovers the Higgs, it would fill a huge gap in the so-called Standard Model, the theory that summarises our present knowledge of particle physics. The Higgs would help explain the origin of mass and why some particles in the Standard Model have it but others, oddly, do not.
"I shall open a bottle of something," should the particle exist, the 79-year-old professor said.
"It will be champagne -- whisky takes a little more time to drink," he added.
A gamble costing six billion Swiss francs (3.9 billion euros) that has harnessed the labours of more than 2,000 physicists from nearly three dozen countries, the LHC is the biggest, most powerful high-energy particle accelerator ever built.
"I should be very, very puzzled" if the LHC does not prove the existence of the Higgs Boson, its namesake scientist said.
"On the basis of the evidence that we have, it's not far off. It will be in the data very quickly but a lot of analysis of the data has to be done before you've announced that you've seen it," Higgs said.
The team at CERN are not the only ones hunting for the Higgs Boson however. A rival team based at Fermilab in Chicago are in hot pursuit, using an ageing accelerator known as the Tevatron, which is due to be phased out in 2010.
"It's a possibility that they find it first," Higgs conceded.
"It's hard for them to find it but it could be already in their data but not in their analysis yet," he added.
The competition is fierce but not cut-throat -- the United States and Fermilab itself are enthusiastic partners in the LHC.
While Higgs hopes the LHC will reveal the secrets of the universe, others fear an apocalyptic scenario straight out of a science-fiction film -- that the experiment will, in effect, create massive black holes which could reduce Earth to a lump of hot, strange matter.
Higgs dismisses such fears as the products of over-active imaginations.
"This black hole business has become rather inflated because even theorists suggesting many black holes could be produced are not predicting large black holes which would swallow up large chunks of the universe," he said.
"I think the publicity about that got out of hand and some people have misunderstood," he added.
Not a joke. Remember that we are talking about Britain here.
Why is the "black hole" fear part of the story?
“This black hole business has become rather inflated because even theorists suggesting many black holes could be produced are not predicting large black holes which would swallow up large chunks of the universe,” he said.
Wouldn’t a small black hole absorb the matter next to it and so grow, and absorb more matter, and grow, and so absorb more matter, and grow . . . until it absorbs all of us?
Maybe information isn’t lost in a black hole...
Hopefully, no. I can already see a market for them as garbage disposals.........
There, now that's out of the way.
No sign of the Higgs boson
New Scientist | December 5, 2001 (note the year) | Eugenie Samuel
Posted on 04/10/2007 8:48:56 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
“It’s more likely than not that there is no Higgs,” says working group member John Swain of Northeastern University in Boston...
Desperately seeking the Higgs boson
Manila Times | Sunday, January 14, 2007 | Rony V. Diaz
Posted on 01/15/2007 1:57:53 AM PST by SunkenCiv
Physicists Say Can Find No Sign of ‘God Particle’
Reuters / Yahoo | December 5, 2001
Posted on 12/06/2001 4:46:03 AM PST by Darth Reagan
Big Bang at the atomic lab after scientists get their maths wrong
Times Online | 4/8/07 | Jonathan Leake
Posted on 04/08/2007 8:55:49 AM PDT by LibWhacker
I will concede, she’s strange. But hot?
I’ve heard of this before. Their theory contemplates a microscopic black hole. It has very little matter in it, but because the matter is so close together, it’s technically a black hole. Even so, it apparently is not that dangerous because you’d have to get very close to be affected by it, and getting that close would be very difficult.
The more you read this stuff, the more you realize that there is a class of physicist that borders on the nutcase. And it’s very difficult for the average guy to discern between the nuts and the geniuses.
Smartest physicist I know ended up on Wall Street . . .
Good article though re Higgs. Thanks for posting.
The LHC will whizz protons to 99.9999 percent of the speed of light in two parallel beams in a ring-shaped tunnel 27 kilometres (16.9 miles) long and up to 175 metres (568 feet) below ground_______________________________________________________________99.9999% the speed of light, Hmmmm. Probably long enough to finally capture that wascally Higgs within the first few moments after ignition. Soooo, What do we do with our Billion dollar investment after it proves itself the first day ?............Why that’s easy. We keep turning it on and off untill we actually DO produce something detrimental, Silly people. Failed Diplomacy be Damned. We got to much money into this thing just for one shot !
Okay, “Love” is to humanity as the “Higgs Boson” is to an infinite number of universes.
After spending that much money, you can be certain that the scientists won’t admit that they still couldn’t find the Higgs. They’ll “find” the Higgs one way or another.