The Other I

July 9, 2012

Found it!

Filed under: Intriguing Science — theotheri @ 8:20 pm
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I haven’t been able to find a lot of things in my life, but I can’t think of a single thing for which my search could possibly have lasted 40 years.  I’d have given up by then.  If only because by the time I found the lost shoe, the misplaced spectacles, the missing widget, it would be totally useless by then anyway.

Obviously the Higgs Bosom belongs in a different category altogether.  Some of the best minds in the world spending billions of dollars have been looking for it.  And now they think they’ve found it.

They are only pretty sure, mind you, because nothing in science is ever 100% certain.  But they think they found it.

So why were they looking for the Higgs Bosom?  Because up until now scientists have been unable to explain why the almost infinitesimally small particles that emerged with the Big Bang haven’t all just kept whizzing around at the speed of light in splendid isolation from each other.  What made some of them slow down and mass together?  In other words, what made the particles give up their individuality to bind together ultimately to form atoms and molecules, the very stuff of matter?  It must have been something very powerful because bound together in the atom are both negative and positive particles that one would expect to repel each other.

The Higgs Bosom creates the Higgs field which slows down any other particles in its field and so creates bunches, or mass or matter.  It’s why irreverent scientists dubbed it the “God particle.”

Okay, it’s pretty easy to understand what the Higgs Bosom does.

What I can’t find anybody to explain is how it does it.  How, for instance, did scientists know to search in a particular place of the particle spectrum?  And how did they know it when they found it?

I haven’t a clue to the answer to this question.

I have the feeling I am going to have to ask one of those brainy scientists working on the problem to explain it.

But I have the scary feeling I won’t have any idea what any of them are talking about.

Anyway, scientists say that now that they have a pretty comprehensive theory about matter, which accounts for about 4% of the Universe, they are now free to start looking for dark matter, which explains about 23% of the Universe.  Another 73% of the Universe is composed of dark energy, and even the brainiest scientists don’t really know what that is.  A few scientists  think it doesn’t exist.  They say we only think it does because we are misinterpreting what we see.

Well, that’s nothing new, is it?

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6 Comments »

  1. I have read that the scientist who came up with the notion of this particle referred to it as “the goddamn” particle, and the cussword part was later dropped in favor of the irresistible idea of it being the key tool of the Creator. And that, teacher, is most of what I know about particle physics.

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    Comment by pianomusicman — July 9, 2012 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

    • Oh I love it! The “goddamn particle” transformed to the “god particle.” Sounds like redemption to me.

      When the announcement about the Higgs was being made by scientists in the UK last week, Professor Higgs (now in his 80’s) was invited as a guest of honor. Apparently he broke into tears.

      Now if Andy Murray can just win Wimbledon one of these years…

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — July 10, 2012 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  2. oh dear – i have not a clue what you are talking about – and that, after reading bbn2, much less understanding higgs bosom. but i am happy that they found it, or think that they did, or might have, do they owe st.anthony $1?

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    Comment by kateritek — July 9, 2012 @ 11:48 pm | Reply

    • Oh no! don’t tell me you haven’t understood a word I was talking about. I was under the illusion that I could at least make it comprehensible to ordinary folk like us what the Higgs does, even if it is totally beyond me to understand how it does it.

      Here’s another try at explaining (god forgive me): think of a whole box filled with a lot of little things of various shapes and colors and sizes. Each of them are separate, and if you tip the box over, they will simply spread out all over the place. So why did about 4% of those “little things” (quantum particles to grown-ups) start massing together when the box was tipped over with the Big Bang? Why didn’t they just keep spreading around the universe in their own individual ways? Higgs is the glue, the force (in grown-up terms) that leads to the massing of these particles that eventually become matter and everything that you and I think of as “everything.”

      Oh please tell me you understand! But don’t tell a real grown-up that this is the way I explained it. I’m sure he or she will roll their eyes to heaven.

      And I’m still trying to get some idea of how physicists knew what they were looking for looked like. I mean, how did they know it was a Higgs Bosom when they saw it, and not, as another comment suggested, just another “goddamn particle”?

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — July 10, 2012 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  3. thanks! i think i was overwhelmed yesterday with “stuff” and “stuff” and concentration on anything beyond watching grass grow, was beyond the scope of possibilities. in rereading it today, i do get what you are saying. but your explanation today makes it even clearer. spoon feeding helps those of us slightly physics phobic. i will not tell a real grown up, but not sure the real grown ups in my life would care! k

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    Comment by kateritek — July 10, 2012 @ 2:22 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for letting me know that the box of tricks makes sense. Unless I totally misunderstand (a distinct possibility), it’s a reasonable metaphor. I also re-read my post in light of your feedback, and I think you’re right – I did a better job of explaining on the second try. Now let’s just hope I’m more or less right. I’m not physics phobic, but I might be crazy. Not sure I know any real grown-ups who care either. But do I really want to ask and see that glazed over look as they consider how they could possibly explain…

      It’s raining again over here. Back to watching the grass grow.

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      Comment by Terry Sissons — July 10, 2012 @ 2:54 pm | Reply


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