The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

Higgs Boson? Are you there?

with 6 comments

The search for the Higgs boson particle continues at the Large Hadron Collider. If you follow this search at even the most rudimentary level, you are probably aware that at any given point physicists are either just at the verge of discovering it, or just at the verge of declaring it non-existent.

But, remember, it’s not easy to search for a hidden subatomic particle that cannot actually be detected itself. And complicating the nuance on such an impossibly difficult search is that not finding the Higgs might be just as interesting, and just as consequential for our current understanding of physics, as actually finding it.

Anyway, the search continues, with scientists at CERN preparing to share results and a whole heap of data next week. What will be released, what it will mean, and whither we shall go towards the Higgs remains to be seen. Thus, rumors abound about what has or will happen regarding that most fated of particles, the God Particle (DUN dun duhhhhh).

For now, I recommend a couple pieces, for those interested. The LA Times has a pretty solid, short article: “Careers hang in the balance. Not to mention a cache of chocolate handed out by the folks who award Nobel Prizes.”

This one from the BBC is fun  and talks a little about physics: “What we have at the moment is something we call the Standard Model, that describes all fundamental particle physics. You can think of it as being an enormous giant Jigsaw puzzle, but there’s a piece missing right in the middle there. We have been looking for this for 30 years now, and finally, maybe, hidden under the back of the LHC sofa…we are finally finding it”.

And for the nerds, I recommend this interview at Nature with physicist Joe Lykken. The discussion covers much of the Higgs boson search, supersymmetry, WIMPs, string theory, a multiverse, and the trouble with putting too many theorists in the same place:

Do people think it’s a good idea to have theorists in the collaborations?
I think it wouldn’t be good to have too many theorists because theorists are very undisciplined and we don’t really fit in too well in the way things are done. It’s good to have a handful of theorists as a resource, but If we had 100 theorists it would just add to the noise.


Written by Christopher ZF

December 9, 2011 at 10:02

6 Responses

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  1. Theorists as opposed to what, those who experiment? What makes you so sure the reality of the experimenter is more concrete and real than that of the theorist? It’s not like high school chemistry, where science can prove to us things that we can touch and verify.
    I like theorist noise.


    December 9, 2011 at 10:19

  2. Yes, as opposed to those who experiment.
    For more of an understanding between what Lykken (who is a theorist) is talking about, read the interview.
    Here’s a nice bit on theorists vs. experimentalists.

    “It’s been a real learning experience for me. It’s a different culture, first of all. It’s extremely competitive, in different ways than we are in the theory community. Experimentalists are much nicer to each other. Typically, if I write a theory paper and I give a theory talk, at least one theorist will jump up and say, “that’s completely wrong, and I can show you exactly why.”


    December 9, 2011 at 10:22

  3. yep, I will read it (and should have before trolling you). In general, though, I think it is a mistake to treat something like the search for the Higgs Boson (and experimenting rather than theorizing) will answer things or better yet reveal something about objective reality. But that’s just my hobby horse and I should really have a few drinks if I want to explain it brilliantly and lucidly….


    December 9, 2011 at 10:33

    • You’re not wrong. And I don’t think most folks with disagree.
      In the interview their is some discussion about what it would mean if the string theorists get to the same Higgs boson that the experimentalists do. It’s quite possible. There’s no knock here on the theorists.

      Only on the idea of putting 100 of them together with the folks running the experiments to try to figure out a solution to the problem.


      December 9, 2011 at 10:37

  4. How about finding the Tijl Uilenspiegel Boson?


    December 9, 2011 at 13:13

  5. […] we at TENB will wait for a more declarative statement. Which may be a long time coming. But the teasing out of the existence of the Higgs, and getting it right rather than getting it […]

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