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Ask Slashdot: What Are the Implications of Finding the Higgs Boson? 683

Posted by timothy
from the already-working-on-a-marketing-jingle dept.
PhunkySchtuff writes "OK, so we're all hearing the news that they've found the Higgs boson. What are some of the more practical implications that are likely to come out of this discovery? I realize it's hard to predict this stuff — who would have thought that shining a bright light on a rod of ruby crystal would have lead to digital music on CDs and being able to measure the distance to the moon to an accuracy of centimeters? If the Higgs boson is the particle that gives other particles mass, would our being able to manipulate the Higgs lead to being able to do things with mass such as we can do with electromagnetism? Will we be able to shield or block the Higgs from interacting with other particles, leading to a reduction in mass (and therefore weight?) Are there other things that this discovery will lead to in the short to medium term?"
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Ask Slashdot: What Are the Implications of Finding the Higgs Boson?

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  • Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squiddie (1942230) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:37PM (#40554003)
    We will find a way to blow stuff up with it. It's humanity's specialty, after all.
    • Re:Probably (Score:5, Informative)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:47PM (#40554181) Homepage

      Currently the finding of the Higgs particle is just that it confirms that the theories are correct and that a new platform has been established. This means that they will continue the same track.

      But I don't think that this will cause new ways to blow things up - you may need something bigger than the CERN accelerator to make things happen.

      But if someone later determines that this wasn't the Higgs particle but another unpredicted particle type then the current model will fall and some new model has to be created.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        Currently the finding of the Higgs particle is just that it confirms that the theories are correct and that a new platform has been established. This means that they will continue the same track.

        But I don't think that this will cause new ways to blow things up - you may need something bigger than the CERN accelerator to make things happen.

        But if someone later determines that this wasn't the Higgs particle but another unpredicted particle type then the current model will fall and some new model has to be created.

        Atomic bombs are soooo 1960's - the modern way to wipe out humanity is with bio-engineering of custom plagues.

        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

          by Loughla (2531696) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:09PM (#40554529)
          It's actually interesting to see how we've come full circle - war starts = sticks and rocks, continues = swords and shields, more = catapulting dead bodies over sieged walls, continues = guns and bullets and traditional bombs, continues = atom bomb bitches, more = the MOAB, smart missles and bombs, and big ass machine guns to tear buildings to pieces - or, a step back to conventional bombs, now = bio-engineered weapons, or the cheaters version of lobbing bodies over walls.

          I'm predicting a run on big sticks and bigger rocks at around the year 2026 or so.

          • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

            by idontgno (624372) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:32PM (#40554891) Journal

            know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

            -- Albert Einstein (1947)

            • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

              by Loughla (2531696) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:45PM (#40555907)

              When I received your reply, I was surprised that my brain was working in the same manner as Einstein. As such, I've been thinking about this for a while now. The conclusion that I've come to isn't the obvious one that most people would have (that I have heard this quote before, and it somehow made its way into my subconscious). Nope. My conclusion is that I AM AS SMART AS ALBERT EINSTEIN.

              My reality is a wonderful reality, care to visit?

              • by fox171171 (1425329) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @08:44PM (#40559379)
                My conclusion is that I AM AS SMART AS ALBERT EINSTEIN.
                My reality is a wonderful reality, care to visit?


                I suspect that if you were subjected to the "Total Perspective Vortex", you would come out feeling pretty good.
            • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

              by hey! (33014) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @04:26PM (#40557309) Homepage Journal

              When I was a youngster at MIT in the early 80s, the Reagan administration came in and shook up research priorities. Suddenly applied researchers who weren't doing military research were looking for jobs, and researchers who were doing military research had to show results or walk.

              I was working on a lab that had a DOE grant (energy, not education), and we hired as an engineer a physics researcher who'd lost his ONR grant. We got him and his project, a new, advanced type of electron microscope, which we were using as a spare vacuum tank. "It's those damn ROTC graduates," he said. "Back in the day I'd have told them it was a death ray, but those damn ROTC graduates know damn well the only way you'd ever be able to kill someone with this is drop it on him. 'Deaths per dollar', that's all they want to hear about, 'deaths per dollar.'"

              Back at the dorm I mentioned this, and we kicked the 'deaths per dollar' around, trying to come up with various ways of maximizing it. Finally I proposed this scenario. Find a construction site, and root through the dumpster until you find a length of 2x4 three to four feet long. Then walk down the street and when you encountered someone, beat him over the head with your piece of lumber.

              "No good," one of the other students said. "You're assuming your time is free."

              "Well," I replied, "it *is* a government project."

          • Re:Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Bigbutt (65939) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:45PM (#40555061) Homepage Journal

            Yep, I expect throwing largish rocks down from space will do some significant damage. Same with just dropping iron rods onto a larger target (with nods to Larry Niven).

            [John]

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              The nods should go first to Robert Heinlein - "throw rocks at them" was what the moon folks did when they revolted from earth control in "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress". Niven embellished the idea somewhat, but he would certainly not claim it as his own.

          • Re:Probably (Score:4, Interesting)

            by jbezorg (1263978) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:02PM (#40555301)

            I'm predicting a run on bigger rocks

            Worked for the Centauri against the Narn.

          • by wzzzzrd (886091)
            Good for me, I sell rocks.
        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Interesting)

          by kikito (971480) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:29PM (#40554855) Homepage

          > the modern way to wipe out humanity is with bio-engineering of custom plagues.

          That is so 1990. The modern way to wipe out humanity is debt. Why kill everyone, when you can make them all pay tribute instead? And if someone protests, you tell your media to blame the "crysis". And then keep on going until there are only some ritches, the army, and the poor. And then you have won.

      • Re:Probably (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Remus Shepherd (32833) <remus@panix.com> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:08PM (#40554501) Homepage

        But I don't think that this will cause new ways to blow things up - you may need something bigger than the CERN accelerator to make things happen.

        Actually...one of the exciting findings is that the Higgs boson's mass is lower than expected. So low that the standard model predicts that the vacuum should be unstable. That means any space with no particles in it should be boiling away, with the zero point energy converting into real energy. Since we probably would have noticed if the universe had spontaneously disintegrated, that suggests something needs to be fixed in the standard model.

        If fixing the standard model leads to a way for us to utilize the zero point energy, this discovery might just lead to a new way to blow things up. And if -- ghod forbid -- we discover a way to make the vacuum unstable, then we might learn how to make one really big boom. Just one, because it will consume the entire universe, but that one will be REALLY BIG.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tom17 (659054)

          Was "ghod forbid" a typo? I like it. There are so many sayings in general use that use the 'g' word that it's to inconvenient to refrain from using. If we use ghod (or Ghod?) then we can use it and release any tie to the big G, who I don't want to attribute any credit to when I say things like "Good Ghod that thing is HUGE!".

        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

          by cyberchondriac (456626) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:29PM (#40554851) Journal

          And if -- ghod forbid -- we discover a way to make the vacuum unstable, then we might learn how to make one really big boom. Just one, because it will consume the entire universe, but that one will be REALLY BIG.

          What do you think happened when the last sentient species figured this out, about.. oh, 13.7 billion years ago..

          • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

            by osvenskan (1446645) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:16PM (#40556349)

            And if -- ghod forbid -- we discover a way to make the vacuum unstable, then we might learn how to make one really big boom. Just one, because it will consume the entire universe, but that one will be REALLY BIG.

            What do you think happened when the last sentient species figured this out, about.. oh, 13.7 billion years ago..

            And the last thing heard in that previous universe was a scientist saying "Hey guys, watch this!"

        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Interesting)

          by radtea (464814) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:30PM (#40555667)

          So low that the standard model predicts that the vacuum should be unstable

          Not quite. The Higgs looks like it is just above the threshold for a stable EM vacuum, which is quite curious, and suggests that there may be some new physics that drives the Higgs mass down to that point, but not below it.

          • by holmstar (1388267)
            Perhaps the proximity to the threshold is the reason that vacuum is seething with virtual particles? If the Higgs mass were slightly less, would the virtual particles be slightly less virtual?
      • But I don't think that this will cause new ways to blow things up - you may need something bigger than the CERN accelerator to make things happen.

        Pessimists never blew anything up worth blowing up.

      • by BMOC (2478408) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:21PM (#40554721)

        Not necessarily fall as in need revision, but we know this already. The basic matter/force particles have been known for a while, except Gravity. We couldn't find any particle that linked us to mass, the search for the Higgs was just that, a search for an explanation for mass.

        However, we know just based on observing the heavens (where all science truly begins), that it doesn't end at gravity . There are clearly forces out there that we didn't predict with our current models, namely dark matter/dark energy. It is currently theorized that dark matter is a manifestation (of fields/particles) that we currently do not have in the "Standard" model. The Standard model was doomed as soon as we discovered that galaxies are accelerating away from each other.

      • by DriedClexler (814907) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:22PM (#40554751)

        But I don't think that this will cause new ways to blow things up - you may need something bigger than the CERN accelerator to make things happen.

        That kind of addresses my question about this: if, for example, finding the Higgs boson is proof that (physics is such that) $AWESOME_TOOL can be built (exploiting such confirmed physical laws) ...

        Then why not just go ahead and try to build $AWESOME_TOOL, without waiting for the LHC's results? I mean, it's probably cheaper to just try, right?

        In other words, if there is any practical application to this knowledge, couldn't it have been pursued independently of performing the LHC experiments?

        In yet other words, when scientists gradually realized lasers were possible, people didn't wait for the results of some grand, most-expensive-ever experiment before attempting practical ways to employ light-amplification-through-stimulated-emission-of-radiation ... did they?

        • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

          by nahdude812 (88157) * on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:53PM (#40555171) Homepage

          That's a little (maybe a lot) like saying, "We now know that theory allows for us to create artificial gravity or to block the effects of gravity, so why don't we just build the device that lets us do so without all that annoying intermediary research?" Or maybe like those aborigines on islands in the middle of the Pacific ocean who saw airplanes fly overhead and drop supplies during World War 2. It's like if they decided to go ahead and build an airplane without first understanding aerodynamics, internal combustion engines, or even metal working. Actually, they did, they built some airplanes out of mud and sticks. They were probably more successful in their attempts than we would be trying to create $AWESOME_TOOL exploiting Higgs.

          We either need an understanding of how the universe works, or we need a serendipitous accidental discovery, before we can exploit the laws of nature for our advantage. Only studious exploration of the universe guarantees a result; serendipitous discovery by its nature has no guarantees.

          • An analogous situation would be more like:

            "We're doing this extremely expensive, time-consuming experiment to calculate the density and viscosity of air."

            What's the point?

            "Well, if air has the right combination of density and viscosity, our models predict that a machine could be capable of supporting its own weight using only the air flowing past it -- a heavier-than-air flying machine!"

            Why not just assume air has (certain combinations of) the right properties, build airframes based on that, and see if they

        • Re:Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

          by hawkinspeter (831501) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:54PM (#40555189)
          I think finding the Higgs boson is important to guide theories. By finding it at certain energy levels, it can validate and invalidate certain theories and provide information for future theories.

          There's a feedback loop between theory and experiments where the results of one influences the other. Sometimes experimental data can outstrip theory - the kind of "I didn't expect that" experiment that prompts theorists to start inventing new ideas that can hopefully match the results.

          Other times, the theory is worked out first and then experiments designed to prove or disprove it - the kind of "I was right!" ones.

          I don't think people "wait" to find practical applications, but it's more often that people didn't realise the full extent of what was possible. Lasers were theorised by Einstein around 1918, but the practical applications weren't realised until much later. Lasers were virtually a solution looking for a problem.
    • Re:Probably (Score:5, Funny)

      by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:54PM (#40554287) Homepage Journal

      We will find a way to blow stuff up with it. It's humanity's specialty, after all.

      More likely it'll feature in some diet pharma ploy - Reduce Your Mass With New Higgs-Boson Removing Creme!

      The way you float around the room, I'd say you've lost a few Higgs-Bosons, Honey!

    • We'll make a Higgs Boson gun that shoots atoms full of mass. Then we'll use it to make planes fall out of the sky, cause submarines to sink until they implode, and make people collapse under their own weight.

  • Will we be able to shield or block the Higgs from interacting with other particles, leading to a reduction in mass (and therefore weight?)

    EOM

    • Re:Antigravity (Score:5, Informative)

      by Artraze (600366) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:19PM (#40554683)

      No. Gravity does not operate on mass, it operates on energy. Therefore the Higgs field is irrelevant when it comes to anti-gravity because it really just explains the linkage between mass and energy. It might help in converting energy and mass (which would be far more useful that anti-grav!!), but at the end of the day, a certain amount of energy be it kinetic, binding, chemical or simple mass is always going to weigh the same.

    • by holmstar (1388267)
      Not mass, but perhaps inertia? However, if you are able to cancel out part of the inertia of an object, what would that do to it's temperature? The vibration of the atoms and molecules of an object is collectively measured as temperature, and reducing inertia would conceivably affect that vibration. (after all, energy must be conserved) My guess is that it would increase the frequency of the vibration. Would this make it behave as though its temperature has increased? Would melting/boiling points drop
  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:41PM (#40554045) Homepage

    There will be an immediate and nearly catastrophic increase in the amount of bad science, pseudo-science and technobabble-based science fiction in popular media.

    It could be years before the world recovers from this.

    • by Catbeller (118204) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:56PM (#40554327) Homepage

      "There will be an immediate and nearly catastrophic increase in the amount of bad science, pseudo-science and technobabble-based science fiction in popular media."

      In Sci-Fi, such as TV shows or novelizations therefrom, yes.

      In Science Fiction, where writers drink bourbon and eat science magazines with sprinkles, we'll do it right, as usual, for the real SF devotees.

      Don't confuse the two genres.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:42PM (#40554065)

    1)The Higgs diet. Eat whatever you want, you'll always weigh as much as you want!
    2)A freakin' suitcase that no matter what I'm putting in, it will always weigh less than 20kg, 'cause FUCK YOU AIRPORTS AND YOUR EXTRA FEES.

  • by ElmoGonzo (627753) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:42PM (#40554075)
    Comic Sans in particular can be expected to become more popular.
  • by Ashenkase (2008188) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:42PM (#40554081)
    We will be able to develop a new physics engine for Angry Birds.
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:44PM (#40554121) Homepage Journal

    Honestly. The hype on this Higgs-Boson quest is reaching nauseating levels. It's cool, but what of it? Will it give us world peace? Will it deliver flying cars? What about donuts? Doesn't anyone think about donuts anymore?!?

  • by dittbub (2425592) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:45PM (#40554131)
    I don't think anything changes except that the model they've discovered years ago is in fact real.
  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:45PM (#40554135) Homepage Journal

    To manipulate it's properties would would be something like LHC.
    Plus, one you return it the higher state of symmetry, how do you generate a field to prevent symmetry from breaking?
    returning it to symmetry would mean the particle becomes zero mass. If it's zero mass would it even interact with other particle in the way needed to hold 'large' objects together?

  • by who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:45PM (#40554139)
    now that its been discovered, all textbooks will have to be re-written and sold to students.
  • Inevitable (Score:4, Funny)

    by FurtiveGlancer (1274746) <AdHocTechGuy@[ ].com ['aol' in gap]> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:47PM (#40554173) Journal

    Sudden, otherwise inexplicable increase in popularity of "Higgs" as a baby name.

    God help us!

  • It validates the Higgs mechanism, which explains why elementary particles have mass. Now the Higgs boson is no longer considered hypothetical, likewise the Higgs mechanism and the Higgs field, mediated by the Higgs bosun. Speaking as a layman.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:50PM (#40554227)

      Everyone knows Bosun Higgs is in charge of the mass on this ship.

    • by slew (2918) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:37PM (#40556705)

      It validates the Higgs mechanism, which explains why elementary particles have mass. Now the Higgs boson is no longer considered hypothetical, likewise the Higgs mechanism and the Higgs field, mediated by the Higgs bosun. Speaking as a layman.

      Speaking as a layman, I don't think this discovery validates the Higgs mechanism yet. All they have done is found what looks like a particle at 125 GeV/c2 (about the same as 130 protons). They don't know what it does yet. Yes it looks like a duck, but it hasn't quacked yet...

      About the closest analogy that I can come up with is that they smashed billions of cars into each other and listened to the result. They know how heavy all other known cars are, and they are looking to see if there's a rare Tesla Model S in there but they don't know how heavy it is because they've never seen it before, but they have some rough idea it's between 115 and 130 units. They make the assumption that a car crash would make a certain characteristic crash-sound based on how heavy it was. Of course there is a whole continnuum of sound because no crashes are the same and after the cars crash, they might break into other parts, but they kinda know how heavy the major parts of disintegrating cars are and what sound they might make as well. After listening to all theses crashes and doing lots of math they conclude that they have found that it is highly likely some car around 125 units heavy was part of those billions of smashed cars and no other car they know of is that heavy.

      From that they conclude they have found the Tesla Model S and it is 125 units heavy. Now that the Tesla Model S is no longer considered hypothetical, likewize the assertion that it goes 0-60 in 4.4 seconds and 300miles on a full charge must also be true (whoops, better not make those assumption until someone takes an unsmashed one for a test drive, right?)

  • A great question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spiflicator (64611) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:51PM (#40554245)
    I would suspect if all that happened here is that the expected model was confirmed, that lots of research under the premise of the expected model being accurate would have already occurred/be taking place currently. I would think confirmation might just make it easier to get funding to do more. That said, I was itching to burn my mod points on anybody who responded with a non-joke answer. Ah well.
  • Ob Faraday (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:52PM (#40554253) Journal

    Of what use is a newborn child?

  • by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:52PM (#40554259)

    Full disclosure: I'm a physicist with some high energy/field theory in my background; but I stopped doing anything with high energy theory twenty years ago. Maybe someone who works in the field will disagree with me. And also, some of what I'm saying here I said on /. nine years ago, when someone asked what the practical implications were of experiments that were shedding light on the quark-gluon plasma, because my answer is close to the same.

    With that said . . .I can't imagine any short (or even medium) term practical application. In fact, I can't even imagine practical value in the long term. Mind, it's certainly possible that down the road someone cleverer than I am will come up with something. In fact, that's the normal way in which major technological advances have occurred. For instance, Schottky wasn't trying to invent the transistor when he started studying the quantum behavior of transition metals. Michael Faraday didn't really see any public benefit to understanding electromagnetism, either. It's always worked like this: pure research has historically been without such obvious benefit.

    But nevertheless, I don't want to suggest that that's the eventual result here, because I don't believe it will be. I think that would be disingenuous of me. I highly doubt that an improved understanding of Higgs physics will ever produce any wonderful and amazing technological advance. To me, the motivation is simply that understanding and knowledge -- especially of something like how the Universe got to be the way it is, and why it works the way it does -- is inherently a good thing. It has value by definition. Perhaps my least favorite thing about our society is that we are trained to evaluate the worth of things in terms of their economic value. Just like love, understanding has its own value, in my mind -- bereft of any "practical" value.

    Let me give you an example of what I mean. To the best of our ability to tell, there's only one place where elements heavier than carbon (such as nitrogen, oxygen, sodium, etc. etc.) can be formed in large amounts -- and that's inside a star. Only elements as heavy as carbon or lighter can be formed in the early universe (and, for that matter, the amounts of Li, Be, B and C formed in Big Bang Nucleosynthesis are very very small); for heavier elements, and for larger amounts of carbon etc., you need a star. Now, if you didn't already know this, stop and think about it for a second. A huge chunk of you, perhaps all of you, was inside a star at one time. It appears that you and I are star debris. And it gets even better. The way that large amounts of these elements, forged within a star, can get out of the star is if the star supernovas -- dies at the end of its lifetime with a big boom. That big boom also serves to make very heavy elements -- such as uranium, for instance -- that cannot be made even in a star while it's burning away. There's uranium, and other similar very heavy elements, on our planet. Do you see what I'm getting at? Much of the atoms that make all of us up, that make this planet up, were at one time inside a star (or stars) that lived its life, supernovaed, and spewed out debris. Eventually, maybe a few hundred million years later, that stuff is part of our planet, part of our atmosphere, our water, part of you and me. We are all brothers and sisters; we all came from the same place, sorta.

    Now, that knowledge will never make me any money. It will never have any practical benefit in my life. And yet, I consider myself immensely richer for knowing it.

    Understanding has its own value.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @12:55PM (#40554303)

    Notwithstanding the chatter about non-zero rest mass being related to the Higgs mechanism, an undermentioned fact is that 99% of the mass of all ordinary matter comes from strong force binding energy in protons and neutrons. E.g., look at the mass section of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark

    Twiddling with rest masses of quarks only twiddles with about 11/938ths = about 1% of the rest mass of nucleons. Some of the bias to neglecting this statistic is surely to help elevate in the popular mind the significance of results from the expensive LHC and standard model verification. Naturally, truly massless quarks and/or leptons would lead to major revisions of the standard model and all that. Still, it's just a bit disingenous to keep referring to the Higgs as the origin of "mass" with a bunch of celebrity analogies and whatnot. In the popular mind, mass is more akin to the effective mass of matter at rest (or in slow motion relative to the speed of light), and for that trait it is really strong force binding energy rather than Higgs interactions that creates almost all of it. Such poor analogies lead to weird comments like the original snippet above.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:03PM (#40554425)

    . . . from a book by Physicist Leonard Mlodinow:

    Sure, the physics behind the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator in Switzerland, is a monument to the human mind. But so are the scale and complexity of the organization that build it -- one LHC experiment alone required more that 2,500 scientists, engineers, and technicians in 37 countries to work together, solving problems cooperatively in an ever-changing and complex environment. The ability to form organizations that can create such achievements is as impressive at the achievements themselves.

    -- From his book "Subilminal"

  • by MetricT (128876) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:07PM (#40554493) Homepage

    Thermodynamics began in 1650, but the first air conditioner wasn't invented until 1820.

    Maxwell's work on electrodynamics was published in 1861, but radio wasn't invented until 30 years later.

    Quantum mechanics was first formulated in modern form in the 1920's, but the integrated circuit wasn't built until 1956.

    Today, Higgs is a scientific curiosity, and a validation of the Standard Model. While I suspect it will take longer than 20 years for practical applications of Higgs to emerge, the science and engineering required to build the accelerator are already leading to breakthroughs in material science, computation, and engineering today. Today's accelerator is tomorrow's medical proton beam to cure cancer. And maybe, just maybe, the grandkids will get warp drive out of it.

    Or, we could go bomb some more brown people and give more tax cuts to billionaires. Which seems like a better long-term investment?

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:11PM (#40554561)

    A Nobel award is given to at most 3 people. But in modern times theoretical research is not something that a single person does in their basement .. so there are 6 people (actually one is deceased - so isn't eligible because of that) who could make a claim for the glory. See higgs-boson-nobel-prize-headache [guardian.co.uk] for a better run down on all of this.
     
    Interestingly Higgs wasn't the first to publish on this subject. And I heard yesterday on NPR from a former student of Higgs who suggested he wanted to call it the "God Damned Particle" - but it seems that the name went all PC.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:15PM (#40554621)

    IANAP (I am not a physicist), but I do know that the speed-of-light limit is mass-related. Massless particles move at the speed of light, particles with mass move at up to the speed of light.

    Could it not be true that particles with negative mass move above lightspeed? I know tachyons are at least theorized, although I'm not sure if they're supposed to have negative mass or if they have some other relativistic loophole.

    Now, assuming the above is true, couldn't the manipulation of the Higgs field result in negative mass? We obviously have no method, right now, of doing so, but wouldn't that at least be plausible?

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:26PM (#40554807)
    They didn't actually announce that they found the Higgs boson. Rolf Heuer said "... we have a discovery... [that is] consistent with a Higgs boson." [emphasis mine]

    Now, I'm not trying to nitpick. There is a subtle but very real difference. They did not announce 5+ sigma evidence that they found the Higgs. What they announced that they have 5-sigma evidence that they found a particle. Which, so far, seems to be consistent with the Higgs.

    While they are pretty sure it looks like a Higgs, what they announced was the discovery of a particle. It remains to be seen whether it is the Higgs boson or not. It looks probable, because the mass and longevity are consistent with predicted values for the Higgs.

    BUT... they haven't seen any of the other properties yet. Until they do, they won't know whether it's the Higgs.

    But just keep in mind: that's NOT what they said. What they found was "a particle" We'll have to know more before we decide for sure whether it's the Higgs. It appears very probable, but we must make the distinction.
    • by Pro-feet (2668975) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:05PM (#40556203)
      We do know some of its properties already. We know that it has integer spin, hence is a boson, or we wouldn't see it decay in two photons. We have good evidence that it is the first spin zero, so scaler, fundamental particle ever observed, from the way the signal builds up in the WW decay channel, where the analysis uses the 0-spin property to enhance sensitivity. We also know that the production x decay probabilities are close to what one would expect from a standard-model Higgs boson. Especially the latter is something strong: we set out to detect something very peculiar, and looked on a big sand beach for just a few very peculiar grains of sand - and it turned out we found something. You are correct, that we have to understand the properties, but it is not so much that we need to see if it is a Higgs boson, or something totally different, but rather whether it could possibly be a Higgs boson, or an imposter that looks very much like it and induces the same effects on nature. Theorists have already started to speculate: http://arxiv.org/abs/1207.1093 [arxiv.org]

Be careful when a loop exits to the same place from side and bottom.

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