Thursday, December 08, 2011

Higgs Boson

It appears that the good people at CERN have either discovered or are close to discovering the Higgs boson or ‘God particle’:

Rumors swirled today that data may have been found that supports the Higgs boson at ~126 GeV. Reliable sources have speculated the data will show a certainty, that something’s there, to about 4.2 sigma, the threshold for official detection is 5 sigma, but that only triggers many rounds of attempted confirmation.

Physics blogs are alive with chatter about a possible sign of the Higgs boson – or perhaps an entirely unexpected particle – in data from the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. But the claim has not gone through the experiment's vetting process and could easily turn out to be wrong, physicists say.


Why does this matter? I submit that knowledge for its own sake is a good thing, but also, who knows what sort of technologies such a discovery would lead to? Similarly, what kind of territory are we being led into by those FTL neutrinos? Here’s an article that purports to explain why the Higgs boson matters but, for myself, one of the commenters nailed my feelings about both this particle and those neutrinos:

Translation: the standard model describes a universe that doesn’t actually exist, and so instead of conceding some fundamental defect in the standard model, they assume it must be right and instead there is a missing piece of the puzzle. Much like dark matter and dark energy, the Higgs boson is another epicycle.

And for illuminaton:

Slang for bad science
In part, due to misunderstandings about how deferent/epicycle models worked, "adding epicycles" has come to be used as a derogatory comment in modern scientific discussion. The term might be used, for example, to describe continuing to try to adjust a theory to make its predictions match the facts.

Yup, there's a lot of that about.


AngryMurloc said...

I wondered if they had already 'discovered' it and are just putting bells and tassels on the data before it is brought into the public eye.

I suppose a lot of technology that could be derived from our knowledge of the Higgs is pretty scientific, but I for one look forward to Higgs field generators creating force fields by concentrating Higgs bosons around a plane or shape.

Also, I am still not entirely sold on the FTL neutrino. The Italians did make an interesting case as to why they can't have been moving faster than light (due to the energy loss not adding up) but then again a particle doing something it isn't meant to, ie traveling at superluminal speeds, should be dominated by new laws of physics. Lets see what the US and Japan manage to find over the next year or so.

Neal Asher said...

Precisely what I said in my last post about that neutrino. You can't say the car is too fast because horses can't go that speed.

Northern Fop said...

Re: Epicycles
Just read a really fascinating book on that from the '50s called The Copernican Revolution.

Since Ptolomy's time (just in the AD, or CE if you're being prissy) astronomical observations didn't match the model of Earth at the centre of the universe, with other bodies having circular orbits. Planets changed speed, and occasionally reversed direction, among other things.
Rather than look at the fundamentals of the theory, astonomers just added increasingly complicated circular orbits on circular orbits on circular orbits (epicycles) to explain the observations. Some models were seven epicycles deep, the product of lifetimes worth of observation and and calculation.
This went on for almost 1500 years. Hopefully the Standard Model will be fixed properly or replaced in a shorter time-frame than that!

Graeme said...

I was tempted to make unicycle or bicycle joke, but I struggled given the body of information below to make it relevant.

Can I have a prize anyway for admitting it?

Michael Fowke said...

Maybe they'll be able to create a new bomb that will destroy the whole world.

Just looking on the bright side ...

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

off subject again, but since that last football field x4 also known as asteroid 2005 YU55 (aka Ffx4) probeship swung by...

Neal Asher said...

Northern Fob, I left out further explanation of epicycle for concision, but thank for providing it. I didn't know it went on for that long though!

Must try harder, Graeme.

They certainly will in SF, Michael. I know we already have bosor beam weapons (Alastair Reynolds?)

I go for the camera artefact, Vaude. If it was a cloaked alien ship then why didn't it just get out of the way of the mass ejection?