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

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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  • Re:Probably (Score:5, Informative)

    by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:47PM (#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.

  • Re:Antigravity (Score:5, Informative)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:54PM (#40554291)

    That depends. Are we talking about the inertial mass, or the gravitational mass? They may be numerically equal, but that doesn't mean they are the same thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:55PM (#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

    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 Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:56PM (#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.

  • Re:Antigravity (Score:3, Informative)

    by FurtiveGlancer ( 1274746 ) <{moc.loa} {ta} {yuGhceTcoHdA}> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:03PM (#40554431) Journal

    Weight does not equal mass but mass is vitally involved in determining weight.

    Only when a gravitational field is measurably present. Gravity is the primary determinant of weight, vice mass. Mass is only a secondary or tertiary determinant of weight.

  • Re:Antigravity (Score:5, Informative)

    by Artraze ( 600366 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:19PM (#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 Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:26PM (#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.
  • Re:Probably (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:20PM (#40555525)

    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.

  • by Pro-feet ( 2668975 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @04:05PM (#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: []
  • Re:Probably (Score:4, Informative)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:24PM (#40558471) Journal

    That's hardly an unbaised source. Have a more resonable link to the distribution of wealth in the US? As soon as people start using weasel words like "controlling wealth" I get suspicious of the actual numbers.

    Per wikipedia [] The top 1% own about 35% of the country's weath, which, OK, is more than the national debt, but it's only twice as much.

    Here are some numbers I trust (to 2 sig digits):
    * Total wealth in the US: $91T
    * National debt: $16T
    * Unfunded social security liability: $16T
    * Unfunded prescription drug liability: $21T
    * Unfunded Medicare liability: $83T
    * Total debt + unfunded liabilities: $135T

    Our debt abd future promises exceed expected tax revenue by more than all the wealth in America. How are we going to pay for what we've already promised? Take everything form everybody, then give it back, then take it again? Wow, that's sure going to be productive.

  • by Aardpig ( 622459 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @12:25AM (#40560307)

    Just to enumerate them:

    6 quarks (up, down, strange, charmed, top, bottom)
    3 leptons (electron, muon, tauon)
    3 lepton neutrinos
    1 electromagnetic boson (photon)
    2 weak nuclear bosons (W, Z)
    1 strong nuclear boson (gluon)
    1 Higgs boson

    Did I miss anything?

  • by Tough Love ( 215404 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:20AM (#40560781)

    Antiparticles, though I am not sure whether they count as distinct, and counting them up is complicated by some of them being their own antiparticle.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright