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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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  • Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Squiddie ( 1942230 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:37PM (#40554003)
    We will find a way to blow stuff up with it. It's humanity's specialty, after all.
  • by dittbub ( 2425592 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:45PM (#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 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:45PM (#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?

  • A great question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Spiflicator ( 64611 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:51PM (#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 @01:52PM (#40554253) Journal

    Of what use is a newborn child?

  • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @01:59PM (#40554379)

    now that its been discovered, all textbooks will have to be re-written and sold to students.

    So, business as usual, then?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:00PM (#40554385)

    Don't forget the religious community who will say that it does not matter, the world started 5,600 years ago.

    Yes, some religious people are ignorant and small-minded, just like some of any people are ignorant and small-minded. Hey, I got it! Let's paint them all with a really broad brush. Yeah, that'll fix them!

    Then everyone will know we're not ignorant and small-minded like they are!

  • by MetricT ( 128876 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:07PM (#40554493)

    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?

  • Re:Ob Faraday (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:16PM (#40554643) Homepage

    I get tired of hearing this (rote) trite response as a way of dismissing such question.

    Asking such questions, and then finding the answers, are part and parcel of both science and progress. Dismissing such questions isn't insightful, it's ignorance.

  • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:32PM (#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:4, Insightful)

    by Bigbutt ( 65939 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:45PM (#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).


  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:49PM (#40555121) Homepage Journal

    In the long term, understanding the universe has always paid off. In the meantime, neglecting any long-term payoff, you can consider the $7.5b of the LHC at worse a neutral waste of money.

    Take a look at what we spend on wars.
    Take a look at what we spend preparing for wars.
    Take a look at what we spend bulking up, hoping to scare the other guy out of wars.
    Take a look at what we spend on drugs, medicating ourselves because we find reality too boring. (For those not enthralled by LHC, space travel, etc.)
    Take a look at what we spend trying to keep the aforementioned people from buying drugs, because it offends our moral sensibilities.
    The list could go on forever, most of these things quite negative...

    and you want to pick on science and understanding the Universe as a waste?

  • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) * on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:53PM (#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.

  • by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:54PM (#40555181) Homepage Journal

    Typical ignorant misconception.

    All this science explains 'what'. It barely scratches the surface of 'how'. And is nowhere near explainng either 'who' or 'why'.

    For all of you who rail at the clever rhetorical device of 'God is God and gets to do what He wants', consider the equally clever rhetorical device of 'it just happened'.

    Faith is the belief in what is unseen. Science need not operate on the basis of faith. It is impelled to see, and correctly. It wasn't that long ago that science was being advanced by theists who saw no contradiction in explaining the physical universe despite believing it was all made by God. Some of us still do that. The accusation by others that that is not consistent, or not possible, is stupid.

  • Re:Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hawkinspeter ( 831501 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @02:54PM (#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:1, Insightful)

    by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:07PM (#40555365)

    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!".

    Oh, yes, this! How wonderful. I'm putting this one, "ghod", in my collection with other great words like "womyn" and "herstory". What delicious, intriguing, REVISIONIST HYPER-SENSITIVE GARBAGE. It's language, people. For fuck's sake... *shakes head*

  • Re:Probably (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tom17 ( 659054 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:19PM (#40555517) Homepage

    Much as I hate these made up words, created to push an agenda (like the feminist agenda in the examples you provided), I always feel a little bit hypocritical when I use the word God in a manner as discussed, as I am pretty much atheist these days (Used to be more agnostic but not so much as I go through life).

    For this, however, I am prepared to make one ghoddamn exception ;)

    Also, and I really hate to say this (very attached to my British spellings & grammar in general), but it's true and inevitable; langauge is a constantly evolving beast.

  • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:37PM (#40555783)

    If the difference is between $4 and $5/gal, then yeah -- milk wouldn't be part of the national defense strategy.

    When the price difference is between $4 and $50,000/gal.. then it might be time to think about making it a priority.

    Breaking a leg, unplanned pregnancies, contracting a disease or other bouts of bad luck should not bankrupt a person for the rest of their lives. But hey that's just my opinion. Its just too bad that the people rich enough to afford private health care are the same people deciding that universal health care isn't worthwhile.

    We should make everyone in that so-called 1% spend a year getting by on $2000/mo allowance so that they get some idea of who they're fucking over (not that most of them would care, but I'm sure there's at least a few who are good at heart and just plain don't understand the "other side.")

  • Re:Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <dnaltropnidad>> on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:41PM (#40555839) Homepage Journal

    what? a healthy and smart populace is vital to any war efforts.
    A military filled with stupid sick people doesn't last long.

  • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaeihw9960 ( 2531696 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @03:50PM (#40556005)

    $2000/mo? How about we shoot for the actual poor folks, and not just the ones who can't afford new shoes every month? Try $500-$800/mo. That would give them a better view of it. Teach them how to decide who in the family gets to eat a full meal today, or how to decide between food and medicine. Try poverty, not just lower-middle class.

    Or, if you don't want to be that extreme, how about a seasonal salary like farm folks? Give them a balance of negative $100,000 in March, and then teach them how to pray that it's not too hot/wet/dry/anything, so that the crop can help them pay back what they owe with enough left over after taxes and interest to eat for another year.

  • Re:Probably (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @04:51PM (#40556929) Journal

    Breaking a leg, unplanned pregnancies, contracting a disease or other bouts of bad luck should not bankrupt a person for the rest of their lives. But hey that's just my opinion. Its just too bad that the people rich enough to afford private health care are the same people deciding that universal health care isn't worthwhile

    To be prepared for unexpected, unpredictable negative events is the very definition of responsibility. How have we lost that as a society? Now, if your example was "lost his job, unable to find work during the downturn, and then got cancer on top of that" I'd be sympathetic. But everyone should be ready for one horrible event, and living paycheck-to-paycheck with no savings is simply not responsible adult behavior. Those who are in the bottom 1%, luck-wise? Sure, society can carry them - after all, thats a very small group to provide charity for. But if you try to assert that the average person needs charity? If your over 25 and need help after one-standard-deviation of bad luck, you're doing life wrong.

  • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @05:00PM (#40557027) Journal

    Current levels of debt are, outside of a global war, unprecedented in nations that survived economically afterwards. The US isn't as bad as some, but US national debt is approaching $140,000 per taxpayer. All of the money of the top 1% would make only a small dent in that. Do you expect your grandkids to make good on your spending? Do you think it's OK to spend more because revenues should be higher, if only the rich paid their fair share? Do you personally spend based on what you actually earn, or what you believe you deserve to earn?

    Once it becomes obvious that your don't plan to repay what your borrow, people stop lending you money, and economies fail catastrophically once that happens. You can either reduce speding to what you actually earn in some graceful way (painful though it may be to those who get checks form the government), or keep ignoring the problem until the day when the checks just don't come any more (or they come in some now-meaningless currency). The latter is a far more painful way to go.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @05:38PM (#40557467)

    if we could force the "99%" to (1) work, (2) quit expecting government handouts, (3) quit thinking that 19th century French Lit. degree "deserves" the same pay as an MBA, and (4) pay taxes themselves (48% do not, in this country), THEN you'd have everybody paying their "fair share".

    Right now we have "representation without taxation" for too many folks.

  • Re:Probably (Score:2, Insightful)

    by joh ( 27088 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @05:52PM (#40557655)

    A good example is gravity. We can map it's properties, theorize as to it's extremes and how it reacts and how things react to it, but we simply don't know how it works (cause) at a very basic level. This is that kind of fundamental discovery. Not a discovery about a new light source, or a new type of fuel, but a fundamental building block of our universe.

    Well, it still just says "we don't know" in a very complicated way.

    The proof of having understood mass and gravity would be to manipulate it. So use the knowledge to be gained from that Goddamned Particle to remove the mass along with its attributes (inertia, gravity) from matter (shouldn't change much, if any, of its chemical properties while freeing up lots of energy) and that would mean we've understood something.

    Before that it's really just a very, very complicated and largely symbolic way of saying "we haven't got any clue".

  • Re:Probably (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @06:02PM (#40557761) Journal

    How often does just "one-standard-deviation" happen?

    In a normal distribution? 13.6% of the time (in the bad direction)! By definition.

    And how long before those with more than one standard deviation of bad luck greatly outnumber those that are lucky enough to have none, or a whole lotta good luck?

    We should all expect bad events to happen in our lives with some frequency, and be able to handle those from our savings, and be able to regenerate those savings in a reasonable amount of time. That's what it means to live within your means - you have to spend less than you make, so you have a reserve for the unforseen. You should not need help form society for an ordinary dose of bad luck.

    Now there will always be some hit with worse than we could expect a responsible person to handle on his own, but if that's more than a couple % of society that needs assissance, then we've lost track of what "responsible" means!

  • Re:Probably (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 05, 2012 @06:21PM (#40557979)

    Healthcare is not considered charity in the civilized world. When you are injured or ill, it makes sense for the society to provide care for you so you can resume being productive. Everybody needs to be covered, because everybody will eventually need these services. Life is not a game where you need to have "losers" to look down on, but that is exactly how Americans view it.

  • Re:Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday July 05, 2012 @07:51PM (#40558705) Journal

    I had a heart attack recently, and it cost something around $70K. I have good coverage, fortunately, and I'm perfectly willing to spend my insurance company's money on treating my major health issues.

    This isn't really to the point you're making, but one reason it costs so much is precisely because it's so damn easy to spend other people's money on our health! That's the single biggest driver for health costs today, IMO.

    large family medical expenses at a time when they're trying to raise children and haven't had a chance to build up tens of thousands in savings yet.

    Why would anyone consider it responsible to have children when they don't have a year's expenses in savings?

    If you'd like to tell me how somebody is supposed to be prepared for such medical expenses, if their job doesn't provide it and for some reason insurance companies don't like them, I'd really like to hear it.

    Don't get me wrong, we definitely need a system where you can buy your own health insurance for a similar price to what companies pay for it today. This whole system of employers, of all people, providing health insurance is really, really bad. The only thing worse than your employer having that kind of power over you is the government having that kind of power over you (think the government wouldn't drop your benefits if you were part of the wrong group?) And the cost shifting to people with no insurance (trying to charge them 5x what an insurance company would pay) is outrageous!

    But we can and should fix those problems separately from the problem of charity for the poor, and of providing a cost-capped pool for the highest-risk insurees. We manage to handle car insurance for high-risk drivers in states with mandatory car insurance pretty well in most stats with quite minimal government involvment, after all.

    All of which is aside from the basic fact that if you're not in the bottom quintile, income-wise, you should provide for yourself without help from others, including the bad luck we all face from time to time and should have the savings to get past!

  • Re:Probably (Score:4, Insightful)

    by locofungus ( 179280 ) on Friday July 06, 2012 @02:55AM (#40560937)

    To be prepared for unexpected, unpredictable negative events is the very definition of responsibility. How have we lost that as a society?

    Exactly. And health is one of those things that really does come as a roll of the dice. Sure, people can shift the odds a bit but a lot of it is down to who your parents are and how lucky you happen to be.

    So a responsible society realizes that and provides a safety net for the less fortunate. The rich don't get a choice, the poor don't get a choice. Everyone pays according to his ability and everyone uses according to his needs.

    I think the majority of people in Europe cannot understand at all why universal health care is controversial. Sure, debates about what should be available and what shouldn't abound but not the basic idea.

    In my country, the UK, the Victorian elite built the sewer system because so many of the workers were dying or otherwise being unproductive because of communicable diseases that it was actually profitable to improve things for the poor. At some level, health care provides similar benefits.

    Unfortunately, the sewers are now in need of expensive maintenance and we have lost the idea of selfish philanthropy. Everyone complains about how much tax they pay.


Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp