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Prof Peter Higgs interview: Smashing atoms at CERN and the hunt for the 'God' particle
The Telegraph ^ | 4/8/2008 | Roger Highfield

Posted on 04/08/2008 6:06:11 PM PDT by bruinbirdman

The scientist who came up with a legendary particle that has haunted physicists for a generation said he was confident that a £4.4 billion quest to find if it really exists will pay off within a year.

**Prof Peter Higgs profile
**The Big Bang: atom-smashing could uncover truth
**'Big Bang' machine could destroy the planet, says lawsuit

There is a palpable rise in tension among scientists worldwide as they await the start in July of a vast new atom smasher at CERN, the international nuclear laboratory outside Geneva, which will radically reshape our view of the universe when it goes into action in earnest later in the year.

Prof Peter Higgs inside the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) tunnel at CERN

The machine will slam subatomic particles called protons together to recreate conditions not seen since an eyeblink after the Big Bang of creation and explore new realms of nature, including finding the Higgs particle that plays a starring role in current theory, holding it together, and helping to endow matter with mass.

Named after Prof Peter Higgs, most physicists call the particle the Higgs boson. One Nobel laureate gave it the grandiose title of the "God particle", after his publishers refused to let him call his book "The Goddam Particle": everyone agrees that it is, without doubt, the slipperiest particle of physics.

The history of physics is full of apparent sightings and tantalising hints of the Higgs that could have been revolutionary but then evaporated. The biggest experiment on Earth at CERN, now three years overdue, is the latest chapter in the quest, involving 10,000 scientists and engineers from 100 countries, Prof Higgs says: "It is a bit staggering to think about it."

He stresses that the search for the particle is only one part of what the new machine will do, adding that it is "a possibility" that evidence for the particle may even be hidden in data already gathered by a rival lower-powered smasher already in operation, the Tevatron in Illinois. Discovery, he predicts, "is not far off."

When pushed, he agreed he was more than 90 per cent confident of success in the next year. He hopes to see it by his 80th birthday in May next year, if his "GP can keep me alive much longer."

The mildly spoken emeritus professor from Edinburgh University, one of three theoreticians to glimpse the existence of the particle in the mid 60s, is synonymous with the quest. He has a bottle of champagne to celebrate, though he says he will not put it on ice quite yet. "There will be a lot of analysis of data to be done."

The world's most famous scientist, Prof Stephen Hawking, is betting against the Higgs. But Higgs himself says he would be puzzled and surprised if the new effort fails. "If I'm wrong, I'll be rather sad. If it is not found, I no longer understand what I think I understand." Even so, a host of other particles may show up.

The new hunt is taking place 300 ft underground on the border between Switzerland and France. CERN's new atom smasher is formally known as the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC (hadron is the technical name of the class of sub-atomic particles to which protons belong).

Over the past few days, as 70,000 members of the public visited during an open weekend, Higgs paid his first visit since 1985. He went underground to see the two huge detectors - "eyes" of the machine - that will search for his particle, called CMS and Atlas. "The sheer scale of the detectors was overwhelming," he says. "I was very impressed by the number of very tricky technical problems which people had to solve."

In the 17 mile circumference smasher - think of London's Circle Line - they will collide beams of protons and use the detectors to study the debris of particles and energy to understand more about how our universe formed almost 14 billion years ago.

In this way they hope to unravel the relationships between these fundamental building blocks, perhaps eventually developing a unified Theory of Everything; that accounts for all the fundamental characteristics of matter and energy.

The Higgs is part of the quest because, while losing weight is an everyday concept to most people, physicists are still trying to find it. They don't know where the masses of the supposed elementary particles (quarks and leptons) come from, such as the three quarks that make up the protons they are banging together in the LHC.

Britain's contribution to the project comes from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, a research council, and it may have to make cutbacks at the LHC, after pulling out of a proposed "linear" smasher, because of an £80 million shortfall.

Prof Higgs says his opinions are "fairly unprintable. It looks like a major disaster in the funding of this kind of physics in the UK. We have to quit various international collaborations in a way which has not happened before. You are letting down your international partners and after that sort of thing has happened, they don't trust you any more. That is even worse."

As for claims that the LHC will somehow trigger apocalypse, or perhaps the birth of time travel, he says the fears are "inflated…out of hand" and he is not knowledgeable enough to comment on the prospect of Dr Who-like time jaunts.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: blackholes; higgsboson; peterhiggs; stringtheory

1 posted on 04/08/2008 6:06:13 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
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To: bruinbirdman

They won’t find a ‘god particle’ responsible for ‘helping endow matter with mass’ because they fundamentally misunderstand mass as being a property of matter rather than as an electrical property of space.

2 posted on 04/08/2008 6:27:37 PM PDT by GourmetDan (Eccl 10:2 - The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.)
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To: GourmetDan

Didn’t Einstein mention this somewhere in his ramblings? ;-)

3 posted on 04/08/2008 6:34:14 PM PDT by doc1019 (God is in control ... not Global Warming.)
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To: GourmetDan

From the ‘questions I am really going to regret asking yet am unable to stop myself file’.

What does “electrical property of space” mean?

4 posted on 04/08/2008 6:35:59 PM PDT by tokenatheist (Can I play with madness?)
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To: GourmetDan
If He want’s to see God's “particles” He can do what the weatherman does. Look out the window!
5 posted on 04/08/2008 6:36:40 PM PDT by reefdiver (The sheriff of Nottingham collected taxes on behalf of the common good)
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To: bruinbirdman

Higgs is searching for God-ons but he might find Hell-ons..

6 posted on 04/08/2008 6:42:29 PM PDT by hosepipe (CAUTION: This propaganda is laced with hyperbole....)
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To: hosepipe


7 posted on 04/08/2008 6:49:50 PM PDT by tokenatheist (Can I play with madness?)
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To: tokenatheist
It means he has some type of pseudo-science in mind, for which I guarantee he has no equations that describe observed behavior of subatomic particles, or very badly understands the concept of Electro-Weak theory.

In any case, mass is a self-energy term in the Lagrangian describing the behavior of a quantum field. In current Electro-Weak theory the constant in front of this self-energy term has to be determined for each fermion field in the standard model based on observed experiments. In general, for Non-Abelian Gauge theory, though, the equations are much better behaved if the inherent mass of each field is 0. To get the inherent masses to be 0, we postulate a new field called the Higgs field and show that interaction with this field causes the fermion fields to appear as if they had inherent mass. This had to be assumed to get a sensible Electro-Weak theory, and was used in predicting the masses and coupling strengths of the W+, W- and Z particles before they were detected in accelerators.

Since assuming the existence of the Higgs field gave correct predictive results in earlier experiments, everyone thinks that it is extremely likely that it or something basically like it exists. However, there are a huge number of ways that you can get the Higgs effect with multiple fields as well as the simple one field model. So the exact details of what is going on are fairly murky. Exciting the Higgs field directly, instead of inferring the effect from lower energy experiments, is the only way to get more real knowledge of what is occurring.

In addition, all of the fields we know of, such as the electron field, photon field, etc. have values of 0 when no energy is present. The Higgs, however, is expected to have a non-zero value in the vacuum. By analogy, therefore, this piece of scientific knowledge would be on-par with the original discovery of barometric pressure or the first creation of a vacuum, which is a really big deal. If you think of discovering normal quantum fields as finding objects in a room, this is more like pulling aside a veil aside to reveal another room.

8 posted on 04/08/2008 7:00:48 PM PDT by Netheron
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To: Netheron

All I have to say in response to your post is...


9 posted on 04/08/2008 7:09:37 PM PDT by Arkansas Toothpick
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To: Arkansas Toothpick

I was throwing down the gauntlet and daring him to debate me.

Basically, if you follow particle physics, the Higgs field is the big current “?”, therefore the answer should be a really big “!”.

10 posted on 04/08/2008 7:12:15 PM PDT by Netheron
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To: bruinbirdman


11 posted on 04/08/2008 7:29:59 PM PDT by Captain Beyond (The Hammer of the gods! (Just a cool line from a Led Zep song))
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To: Netheron

Exactly. What you said.

12 posted on 04/08/2008 7:45:35 PM PDT by Eagles6 ( Typical White Guy: Christian, Constitutionalist, Heterosexual, Redneck)
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Veteran physicist hopes secret of universe lies underground
AFP via Yahoo! | 04/07/08 | Patrick Baert
Posted on Monday, April 07, 2008 12:18:54 PM by Brilliant

13 posted on 04/08/2008 8:36:47 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ( updated Saturday, March 29, 2008)
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To: Eagles6

I love it when they talk. It makes a shiver go up my leg.

14 posted on 04/08/2008 8:45:15 PM PDT by Louis Foxwell (here come I, gravitas in tow.)
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To: Amos the Prophet

Seems to be a lot of that goin’ around.

15 posted on 04/08/2008 9:26:10 PM PDT by Eagles6 ( Typical White Guy: Christian, Constitutionalist, Heterosexual, Redneck)
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To: Amos the Prophet

I heard Glenn Beck talking about this today. He said that scientists were pretty sure this wouldn’t turn the earth into a black hole or end the universe or anything. He said something to the effect “Pretty sure? Isn’t that something that you’d want to be really, really sure about?” Just sayin’.

16 posted on 04/08/2008 9:29:26 PM PDT by Eagles6 ( Typical White Guy: Christian, Constitutionalist, Heterosexual, Redneck)
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To: Eagles6

The good news is we will never know what hit us.

17 posted on 04/08/2008 9:37:56 PM PDT by Louis Foxwell (here come I, gravitas in tow.)
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18 posted on 04/08/2008 10:39:51 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ( updated Saturday, March 29, 2008)
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To: bruinbirdman

These folks know they are working with more unknowns than they care to admit. Thus the reason for the lack of coverage and why most people have no clue what this project is dealing with. In 1941, the U.S. detonated it’s first nuclear explosion. In 2008 the World will detonate it’s first nuclear Implosion. Basically what this thing will do will be to pack as much energy released from the first atomic bomb into an area the size of an atom. In my opinion the research isn’t about finding a supposed particle of physics, which it may/may not do. The real purpose is to create and sustain black holes for further research. Obviously, the reward for controlling the power of a black hole will be immense. But so will be the demise if it escapes and lingers unstoppable. Yes, this research will be the precurser to Warp drive mechanics, matter replication and indeed the possibility to recreate new life forms altogether. Harnessing the powers of a black hole is beyond most peoples imagination I suspect.

19 posted on 04/09/2008 9:48:46 AM PDT by CheezyChesster (failed diplomacy: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY STUPID !)
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To: CheezyChesster

In 2008 the World will detonate it’s first nuclear Implosion. [on this scale]

20 posted on 04/09/2008 10:03:41 AM PDT by CheezyChesster (failed diplomacy: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY STUPID !)
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To: CheezyChesster
This project has been covered incredibly well. All of the relevant information is out there on the web and easy to access.

In any case, no it won't destroy the universe, or do anything untoward for the following reasons:

1) Interactions of this sort are constantly occurring when cosmic rays hit the upper atmosphere. If the universe was going to blow up, it would have done so by now. We need the equipment, however, since those interactions are very hard to observe reliably. Also, to detect the Higgs effect clearly we need trillions of them.

2) Although a black hole may be created, it is outstandingly unlikely. It's only become a possibility infinitesimally greater than 0 due to some advances in superstring theory which have made people realize that gravity could have behavior at small scales which is different than large scales and be internally consistent. Just because it could, however, does not mean that it does. It does make for interesting press releases for the general public, however.

3) Even if the black hole was created, its rate of evaporation would be so astoundingly fast that it wouldn't be technologically significant at all, much less be able to grow out of control. About a year ago I posted a link here to a relevant paper on the subject. They concluded that the rate of evaporation was 10^25 times too fast to cause any runaway issues.

This research could be a possible precursor to Warp Drive mechanics, or it might not. If we knew, for sure, that it was, it wouldn't be research.

Harnessing the powers of a black hole will be, like everything else, fairly trivial once you've done it a few times. Black holes are actually astonishingly simple objects. Unfortunately, like most things in physics, when you don't have complete information, predictions usually are not that good. That's why we do experiments. Once we have the experience (assuming that this thing creates a black hole, which is EXTREMELY unlikely) you could easily teach a bright undergrad to do it. Given 20 years of practice by the researchers, it could be a hobby for any interested layman that he could pick up in a month. People used to think that computer programming was beyond most people's imagination too, remember?

In any case, there are no secrets. The whole thing has been extremely well covered in the press, at least to the ability of the reporters to understand the physics. (If you are watching CNN, I can see how you may have felt that you got little information, but we already know that their reporters are ignorant blow-hards. Try reading Science News, since their reporters actually understand their subject.) With a little web-surfing, you can find out everything you could possibly want to know about this experiment in excruciating detail.

21 posted on 04/10/2008 5:03:10 AM PDT by Netheron
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To: Netheron
You seem to be pretty knowledgeable about this, so I'd like to ask a few questions:

Wouldn't the circumstances be different between the cosmic rays collisions in the atmosphere, and the collisions between counter-rotating beams? I mean, would there be a possibility of the micro black holes having low velocity and hanging around?

Also, isn't the idea of the micro black holes existing only briefly, because of evaporation due to Hawking Radiation, still just theoretical?
22 posted on 04/10/2008 5:23:36 AM PDT by ZX12R
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To: Netheron

"The last pieces of the puzzle Like the last pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle, the final components of the titanic Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments at CERN are slotting into place. At ATLAS, CMS, ALICE and LHCb the remaining large pieces of equipment are being carefully lowered into the caverns in preparation for the start up later this year of the most powerful particle accelerator ever, the LHC. "

Ok now I'm scared. "Titanic"? "God" Particle? Didn't anyone watch the titanic movie? This doesn't bode well.

23 posted on 04/10/2008 5:41:09 AM PDT by CJ Wolf (Let Freedom Ping List - Ron Paul - Ron Paul - Ron Paul - Join it.)
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To: ZX12R

Thanks for the compliment.

Well, there really isn’t any difference between collisions in the atmosphere and in the counter-rotating beams in a physical sense, since they are both occuring in a rareified near-vacuum environment. The moon surface might have slightly different types of collisions more often, since you could have interaction with the surface as a solid, but would still have all of the types that would happen in the collider, just very slightly less frequently.

If a cosmic ray hits the surface of the moon and produces a black hole, the black hole will have to travel through the moon interacting with all that mass as it goes. That means a very large number of collisions, each one of which will reduce its velocity, so, yeah, we should expect the moon situation to basically be identical with the counter-rotating beams.

As far as the black holes sticking around, they’d have considerably less velocity than the original particles in the collision, but they’d still be traveling near the speed of light. The counter-rotating beams are not well matched in velocity. Remember, that in relativity, very close to the speed of light with extremely small variation minus very close to the speed of light with extremely small variation equals almost everything from 0 to fairly close to the speed of light.

Also, if black holes are created by cosmic ray collisions and don’t evaporate, then the universe should be swarming with mini black holes. Since we don’t see this, we’re safe.

24 posted on 04/10/2008 6:48:17 AM PDT by Netheron
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To: Netheron
Since we don’t see this, we’re safe.

Thank you for the explanation. I have only a laymen's perspective of all this, but I recently read "The God Particle" by Leon Lederman, and find it all quite fascinating.
25 posted on 04/10/2008 7:04:56 AM PDT by ZX12R
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To: Netheron

In any case, no it won’t destroy the universe________________________________________________________Universe !?, Who’s concerned about the freaking universe ?. I’d be more willing to bet that it’s the PLANET that’s on peoples minds !. Along with they’re thoughts of how science is willing to bet not only their lives but all future generations on the notion that it WON’T happen. Also, with any newly developed human technology; (there will be mistakes made along the way) that my kind sir is a given you cannot deny. The problem here is that there won’t be any reaction time allowed for: 1- I’m sorry but it wasn’t my fault, 2- Oop’s, 3- We can fix it, 4-We’ll pass the buck or 5- They short funded us so it’s all they’re fault ! -— {The only question left would be how many people die. Will it be Millions or Billions ?} —— Now of course I look forward to the new technolocal advances as anyone else would. I can’t wait to put Spock at the helm ! -— But I do have my reservations about this be tested here on Earth as opposed too, let’s say PLUTO. Yes, Pluto would be a much better place to conduct these experiments. Given there cannot be any 100% assurences given here.

26 posted on 04/10/2008 7:50:21 AM PDT by CheezyChesster (failed diplomacy: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY STUPID !)
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To: CheezyChesster

Okay, I can’t give a 100% assurance, but I can say with 100% assurance that it is far less likely than the entire human race simultaneously having a fatal heart attack. Will that suffice?

It’d be much more worth your time to worry about “The Great Big One Elizabeth” than worrying about turning the Large Hadron Collider on.

27 posted on 04/10/2008 7:58:57 AM PDT by Netheron
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To: Netheron

Since we’re on the subject of speculatiion. It would be my guess that if the decision to power up were left to a vote from earths populations that the percentage of people voting against it would be closer to 99.99% ....... Call it a Hunch

28 posted on 04/10/2008 9:46:57 AM PDT by CheezyChesster (The powers of the few, Outweigh the powers of the Many)
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To: CheezyChesster

1) Well, someone sent them 10’s of billions of $, so obviously this is not the case.

2) Most people I’ve met who’ve mentioned an opinion, even those that do not understand the science, are for it. Although that does not prove a majority, it is certainly enough to know the number of supporters is greater than 0.01% of the population.

3) Although there were a few theorists who posited that there were issues at the start about a decade ago, no one who could be expected to know the physics has had any serious concerns once it was determined that cosmic rays were above the energy threshold.

4) Free floating anxiety does not constitute a scientific argument, no matter how many people have it.

29 posted on 04/10/2008 10:33:41 AM PDT by Netheron
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To: Netheron

Let us all Hope the Jeenie goes freely back into it’s bottle

30 posted on 04/10/2008 5:03:53 PM PDT by CheezyChesster (The powers of the few, Outweigh the powers of the Many)
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