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Day 13: What's the Deal With the Higgs?

What’s all the fuss about? I mean what is it, this thing they’re calling the God particle, the Higgs Boson?

The short answer is it’s the entity that gives mass to all the known particles in the Standard Model of particle physics. The Standard Model describes how particles work and interact. By “particles” we mean atomic particles: electrons, protons, neutrons and all the other trons that make up matter. The theory gives us the electromagnetic (interaction between charged particles), weak (responsible for radioactive decay), and strong (holds the nucleus together) forces. The only interactive force of particles not covered by the Standard Model is gravity.

The importance of the Standard Model is that it describes how the universe works. But keep in mind, it is still only a theory. There are bits of information missing, incongruencies in the numbers. The more evidence physicists come up with to sustain the Model, though, the more we understand the world. And if we can iron out the wrinkles, we’ll know pretty much everything we need to know and then we can go home. Some people call the Standard Model the “theory of everything.”

The Standard Model is not a foregone conclusion. It may be close to being perfect, but in the world of the Universe, being close could amount to being dead wrong.  The big thing standing in the way of Standard Model perfection, is that we don’t know where particles get their mass. A field could do it. Yes! A field could endow particles with mass, with existence, if you will. Those in the know have theorized just such a field and they call it a Higgs Field. It has never been observed. It’s only a theoretical entity, like the Standard Model. There is less evidence for a Higgs Field than for the Standard Model. To prove it exists, we need the Higgs Boson. The Higgs Boson gets produced the same time the Higgs Field is endowing other particles with mass. So to prove the Standard Model, we need to find some Higgs Bosons.

What’s a boson? The quick answer from Wikipedia is that Bosons are subatomic particles that obey Bose-Einstein statistics.

Nice. What’s a subatomic particle? Elementary particles like Quarks, electrons and their like (for instance neutrinos), gluons, bosons; and composite particles like neutrons and protons that are made up of elementary particles.

Fantastic. What are Bose-Einstein statistics?  No idea, but they allow  several particles to occupy the same quantum state. That’s what makes them Bosons. Sounds like a circular definition to me, but that’s the best I can do without getting a headache.

Fine. What’s a quantum state? It’s a set of parameters called quantum numbers used to describe the state of a  particle. Examples include the energy of the particle, its spin, its angular momentum: Where it is in space, how much energy it has, which way it’s spinning.

So. We’ve got a theory called the Standard Model. It’s been in use for about 50 years, which is a long time in our modern, rapidly changing world of knowledge. If the Standard Model doesn’t work, then much of what we think we know, isn’t true. So we want it to work and to make it work, we’ve got to have a Higgs Field. To have a Higgs Field we have to have a Higgs Particle. Thus the attention being paid to CERN at this moment in time because they are the best, latest hope for finding the Higgs.

They have not found it yet, but today’s announcement says they’ve found more evidence for it, there’s a good chance it exists, but we can’t say for sure…yet. Stay tuned, they say. I imagine there is still evidence to go through from recent atom smashings. And there’s always next year for more experimentation.

Stay tuned for updates!

Thanks for reading. Hey, if you’ve got any leads on weird science, mention them below or contact me through the form. I’ll check ‘em out.

Sue Lange

Sue Lange’s latest ebook, Tritcheon Hash, is full of lapses of logic and weird science. “It’s a wild, good read.” Get your copy from Amazon or read a couple of free chapters at the publisher’s website.


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