Skip to comments.Prof Peter Higgs interview: Smashing atoms at CERN and the hunt for the 'God' particle
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.
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.
Didnt Einstein mention this somewhere in his ramblings? ;-)
From the ‘questions I am really going to regret asking yet am unable to stop myself file’.
What does “electrical property of space” mean?
Higgs is searching for God-ons but he might find Hell-ons..
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.
All I have to say in response to your post is...
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 “!”.
Exactly. What you said.
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
I love it when they talk. It makes a shiver go up my leg.
Seems to be a lot of that goin’ around.
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’.
The good news is we will never know what hit us.
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.
In 2008 the World will detonate its first nuclear Implosion. [on this scale]
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