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Search for Higgs "God Particle" Gets Interesing 392

Posted by kdawson
from the putting-the-standard-model-to-bed dept.
holy_calamity writes "The Large Hadron Collider is in trouble again. It will start work sometime in spring 2008, not November this year as planned. The delay has been blamed on an 'accumulation of minor setbacks,' and comes on top of a 'design fault' that saw breakdown of magnets supplied by the competing Fermilab. Yesterday Slate nicely rounded up increasingly loud rumors among physicists that Fermilab may already have seen the Higgs particle, the 'holy grail of particle physics' the LHC was build to find."
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Search for Higgs "God Particle" Gets Interesing

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  • Is it me... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:20PM (#19400727)
    or does this sound like the beginning plot to DOOM 3?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:36PM (#19400985)
    GALAHAD: I seek the Grail! I have seen it, here in this castle!
    DINGO: Oh, no. Oh, no! Bad, bad Zoot!
    GALAHAD: Well, what is it?
    DINGO: Oh, wicked, bad, naughty Zoot! She has been setting alight to our
            beacon, which, I have just remembered, is grail-shaped. It's not the
            first time we've had this problem.
    GALAHAD: It's not the real Grail?
    DINGO: Oh, wicked, wicked Zoot. Oh, she is a naughty person and she must pay
            the penalty, and here in Castle Anthrax, we have but one punishment for
            setting alight the grail-shaped beacon: you must tie her down on a bed
            and spank her.
    GIRLS: A spanking! A spanking!

  • God particle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:46PM (#19401153) Homepage
    Because if this particle exists, and behaves as described, that would mean that you'd find enough energy for a "big bang" in, say, a cubic meter of empty space.

    In short, this particle has enough energy for massive events, and it's omnipresent.

    Also it decays, meaning that (minute quantities of ...) matter are constantly being created, due to the off chance that a higgs boson would decay into a top and bottom quark and one of the top quarks decays into an electron and a few other things that will combine into a proton and voila ... a hydrogen atom ... out of nowhere. Literally out of nowhere.

    Eventually, gravity (in short : by passing through a black hole, yes through, you read correctly), it will recombine into the original higgs boson.

    So basically this will reduce "God"'s role in the creation of the universe further back before the big bang, by essentially verifying another prediction by the standard model, which will probably result in the following "creation" facts :
    1) the universe has always existed, it neither came into existance, nor will it "ever" end (which is a bogus question anyway, since time only exists INSIDE the universe, it's pointless to ask what was there before the beginning of time, like it's pointless to ask where the moon is on the surface of the earth : it just isn't a location)
    2) there are many, many, many big bangs, ours was neither the first, nor will it be the last, a big bang will occur "spontaneously" every x (trillion trillion) years.
    3) the reason we haven't heard from people created in other big bangs is simple : it's not possible due to the massive distances involved, which are uncrossable, even by mere (massless) light.
  • by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:48PM (#19401175)
    I've long held (mostly out of sheer amusement) that the reason we haven't been contacted by space aliens is that every intelligent species proceeds through roughly the same sequence of scientific discovery, and they all get to an inevitable point of trying an experiment which invariably wipes out their entire planet & civilization.

    We almost had it with the first nuke test, when scientists allegedly acknowledged there was a non-trivial chance that detonating the first fusion bomb would set the planet on fire.

    Maybe the Higgs boson test will, like other species that tried to make one, turn us into merely a dark stain on the space-time fabric.
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:52PM (#19401245) Homepage

    Looking at this blog [wordpress.com] linked to from the Slate article, one thing that seems inconsistent with the Slate article's interpretation is that they're saying that the observations aren't consistent with a standard-model Higgs; it would have to be something outside the standard model, like, e.g., a supersymmetric Higgs. (Actually, I'm not really clear on what a "supersymmetric Higgs" means; is it two particles, a Higgs plus its supersymmetric partner?) The Slate article, however, raises the idea that the observations might simply confirm the standard model, and that would be it. Am I misunderstanding something?

    Is the Tevatron still running? If so, could it be the sort of thing where the collaboration might just be trying to collect more data, so as to make it an 8-sigma observation instead of a 4-sigma one?

  • Re:god? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HexRei (515117) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @02:59PM (#19401311)
    I can't remember if it was specifically mentioned in the Russian "Solyaris" (subtitled movies don't seem to stick as well in my memory) but in the American remake it was suggested by one character that the "visitors" were a result of a "Higgs field". Later a device is constructed based on that assumption that is able to destroy at least one visitor.
  • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:03PM (#19401385)
    You mean the SSC which was to be built in Texas, 54 mile circumference and only 15 miles of tunnel bored built before funding pulled in 1993. I worked on part of the design SSC (haha yeah, me and hundreds of other engineers and physicists, my job at Fermilab was a very very minor) Sure, accelerators can be used by schools (indeed Fermilab for example is run by consortium of universities), but they're very very expensive. If standard model is verified there really isn't much more to be learned in high energy physics by bigger accelerators smaller than say half a million light-years in circumference.
  • Re:God particle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zCyl (14362) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:44PM (#19402051)

    So basically this will reduce "God"'s role in the creation of the universe further back before the big bang, by essentially verifying another prediction by the standard model, which will probably result in the following "creation" facts :

    In such debates, people always miss the deeper question. If you have a spectacularly wonderful description of all the laws of physics which completely describe how the universe was created, then how did those laws of physics come into being?

    If you explain that with more laws which create the next set of laws, then how did those laws come into being? Surely it's not turtles all the way down.
  • Re:god? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ZombieWomble (893157) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @03:52PM (#19402173)
    You're giving the Standard Model a bit of a hard rap there, aren't you? While it's technically true to state that it's "unproven" (as are all physical theories, pretty much by definition), it is among the most thoroughly tested scientific theories in history, and has been validated to extremely high degrees of precision. This gives most people some degree of confidence in the theory, even if it may not be fully fleshed out yet.

    The Higgs boson is basically the last untested facet of the theory - if it shows up in the expected region without any additional fuss, the model is pretty much entirely successful within present experimental limits and particle physicists are back to digging through the last few orders of decimal places to discover new effects.

  • Re:God particle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @05:09PM (#19403413) Homepage

    You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

    Because if this particle exists, and behaves as described, that would mean that you'd find enough energy for a "big bang" in, say, a cubic meter of empty space.
    No, the existence or nonexistence of the Higgs doesn't imply any particular value for the zero-point energy of the vacuum [wikipedia.org] or the cosmological constant. Actually, nobody has the faintest idea how to calculate the cosmological constant from first principles. When they try, they get answers that are something like 10^100 times bigger than what's actually observed. In any case, the cosmological constant is already known, with fairly small error bars (as things like these go in cosmology). The Higgs is part of the standard model, and the standard model fails miserably to explain the observed value of the cosmological constant. One of the attractive features of supersymmetry (which may or may not be true, independently of the existence of the Higgs) is that it helps to explain how a lot of the vacuum energy could cancel out neatly.

    Also it decays, meaning that (minute quantities of ...) matter are constantly being created, due to the off chance that a higgs boson would decay into a top and bottom quark and one of the top quarks decays into an electron and a few other things that will combine into a proton and voila ... a hydrogen atom ... out of nowhere. Literally out of nowhere.
    No, if the Higgs exists, then it exists in nature only as a virtual particle. In this respect, it's no different from the W and the Z. The W and Z exist as virtual particles in any vacuum, and they have certain decay modes, but those decay modes aren't observed in a vacuum, because they're virtual particles.

    So basically this will reduce "God"'s role in the creation of the universe further back before the big bang
    No. The (standard) big bang model says that the big bang was a singularity where time began. According to the standard big bang model, there was no "before." The rest of your list (points 1-3) show a complete failure to understand basic ideas about the big bang model, such as the fact that the big bang was not an explosion that took place within a preexisting spacetime.

  • Re:God particle (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chernevik (1079091) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:05PM (#19405671)

    the universe has always existed, it neither came into existance, nor will it "ever" end (which is a bogus question anyway, since time only exists INSIDE the universe, it's pointless to ask what was there before the beginning of time, like it's pointless to ask where the moon is on the surface of the earth : it just isn't a location)

    You may be interested to know that Christian theology thinks of time in a similar way, in that it imagines time as inherently linked to the universe. It does goes on to posit that time and the universe are created by God, who exists outside both and is subject to neither. As suggested by other posters, neither idea is experimentally disprovable.

    It's a very old idea -- Boethius discussed it 1500 years ago.

  • Re:God particle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:05PM (#19405675)

    Maybe God *is* the Universe.

    Remember God was invented 10 thousand years ago by people living as sheep herders. Maybe the language has been confused in all those years, and they simply meant something that is too big and we can't understand: the universe.

    If the particle is everywhere, it means it is the fabric of the ether.


    That's brilliant if it's true. If God == Universe, then...

    It also means that God is everywhere, so the Christians (and others) are correct.
    And that Earth worship is justified because it's part of God, so the Pagans are correct.
    It could even suggest that Angels and prophets carrying the word of God were space-travelers and scientists, trying to teach less knowledgeable people about the Universe and how to live safely and healthily.
    And when we die, our matter and energy become one with the Universe, so we do indeed meet our maker.

    So, I guess the real question is whether the universe itself (or God if you prefer) has it's own self-awareness and intelligence.
  • K-K Partners (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @09:13PM (#19405723) Homepage Journal
    True, but the biggest reason given by scientist is the possibility of a Higg. If that gets discovered else ware, it becomes difficult to change focus and keep funding.

    That might be an easy selling point for fill-in-the-box politicians, but personally I'm much more interested in seeing if there are K-K partners at the LHC, and I don't think a lower-energy collider can find them.

    If we do find them, that includes and excludes several competing string theory models, and will tell us something about the dimensionality of the universe.
  • Yes, turtles (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:32PM (#19406185) Homepage Journal
    However, they are reflections of the original turtle as when you have two mirrors face each other. In other words, self-similarity allows a kind of rolled out recursion that likely resolves your paradox.

    But, you are treading on dangerous theological ground. You would equate the creation with the act of creation (logos) and you are not up to comprehending the act. If you take, say, designing and building a house as an analogy, you ultimately find that there is no unique creation that has occured because the idea of an artifical cave is a very old one. Creativity is innate in humans but not comprehended by them. There is something new under the Sun every day but it is unrecognized and not appreciated immediately. The act of creation is diffuse; a tuning in to something larger.

    Because of this, perfect physics does not provide explanatory power and cannot sustitute for core theological mysteries. Your question looks to find room for God in a remote place (the physical law originator) but theologically this just flows out as a minor consequence of the original Word and is not some hideaway.
  • Re:god? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by onx (956508) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @12:23AM (#19406859)
    morgan_greywolf

    The problem with most GUTs is that they make assumptions that certain things, like the Standard Model of particle physics, are true.
    Additionally, all GUTs make assumptions. Not only that, but all of science and mathematics are based on assumptions. You see, at some point assumptions are required. These assumptions aren't exactly outlandish, far from it! You would have an extremely hard time proving that the assumptions they are using are wrong, or incomplete and coming up with new and better ones. It has happened quite a few times (Copernicus for example), but it isn't very often, and it can result in unbelievable fame. Einstein was one of those guys who challenged assumptions and conclusions. Einstein was, partially of course, responsible for the birth of quantum mechanics.

    Not only that, but people constantly challenge and check these assumptions as technology progresses. For example, physicists as recently as 2003 (and probably even more recently than that) used an astronomical technique to experimentally determine the weak equivalence principle, an idea originating to Newton way back in 1687 with Principia, to an accuracy of 1 + or - 10^-18. Astonishing!
    (The weak equivalence principle is the assumption that when you write F=ma=-G[(M*m)/(r^2)] the little "m" in the middle equals the little "m" on the right.)

    These are things that ZombieWomble pointed out when he tried to explain why popular GUTs assume that the Standard Model is true, as I have reproduced below.

    ZombieWomble

    While it's technically true to state that [the Standard Model is] "unproven" (as are all physical theories, pretty much by definition), it is among the most thoroughly tested scientific theories in history, and has been validated to extremely high degrees of precision. This gives most people some degree of confidence in the theory, even if it may not be fully fleshed out yet.

    I would like to add to this. The reason that physicists pursuing a GUT (such as string theory) assume that the Standard Model is correct, is because it is, Higgs boson or no*. A GUT must "reduce to" the predictions of the Standard Model in its limit just as The Special Theory of Relativity (relativistic kinetic energy) reduces to (or does not conflict with) the Newtonian formulation in the classical limit. *The predictions made by the Standard Model, to the limits explored thus far by the Tevatron, agree with experiment.

    You responded to ZombieWomble with:
    morgan_greywolf

    Einstein once criticized quantum physicists for building unproven theories on top of other unproven theories, and I believe the Standard Model was one of them.
    To this I just have to ask, what's your point? Remember ZombieWomble talking about how all physical theories are unprovable "pretty much by definition"? Einstein publicly criticized a lot of things. To me this criticism is not very interesting, or insightful. Physics is about building the best model we can to describe the universe. If talking about particles being points, strings, or even tiny little Jesus dolls makes the math work out awesomely, who cares that our awesome new GUT that makes novel and accurate predictions says that a photon is actually a little Jesus doll? I sure don't.


    One more thing that might interest you: physics is circular. How do you like that?
  • Re:God particle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lawpoop (604919) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @08:32AM (#19409295) Homepage Journal

    Did energy and mass, for example in the fusion reactions in the sun, obey this exchange ratio prior to someone writing down this law? If yes, then that rule existed before someone said it.
    If you claim that, then you've already committed yourself to the idea that rules, or laws, or math, or *some* immaterial abstraction existed before the universe, and most importantly that abstraction is what created it. What you're saying is that the actual processes or events we observe are essentially immaterial (i.e. they are laws, at the basis of their existence) rather than material processes.

    The view that I'm trying to explain is that the 'rule', the mathematical formulation, is just a description, a model, nothing more. It's like describing to someone how the Earth goes around the sun in English, and then that person asks "Why would the universe be based on English?" You tell them you're confused, and they ask why the force that moves the Earth around the sun is in English. Well, of course it's not in English, all you've done is given them a description of the process, which happens to be in English. The description first came into existence when you uttered it, and did not exist in some timeless, ethereal realm; it has no force upon the planet Earth and does not make the system work.

    The actual process or event existed before we described it in math or language, but we can't assume that to mean that the actual physical process is based on math somewhere deep down inside.

    If you think no, then you have a fairly non-standard view of existence.
    The idea you espouse is a variety of platonism, which holds that mathematics, or laws, or 'perfect forms' exist in some ethereal realm, and they are what actually generate the world that we see. I don't think it's a very popular idea amongst physicists these days; see Hawking's _A Brief History of Time_ for a better description of platonism vs. mathematical models.

    If you look around the world at creation myths, you have a lot of materialistic account of creation -- creation from water, creation from nothing, creation from a formless mass, creation from slain gods. In Genesis, we find creation from words. God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. I think probably influences a lot of people's basic understanding of physics in the western world.

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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