Friday, March 15, 2013



Physicists Say They Have Found 
a Higgs Boson



Mar 14, 9:28 AM (ET)

By JOHN HEILPRIN


GENEVA (AP) - The search is all but over for a subatomic particle that is a crucial building block of the universe.

Physicists announced Thursday they believe they have discovered the subatomic particle predicted nearly a half-century ago, which will go a long way toward explaining what gives electrons and all matter in the universe size and shape.

The elusive particle, called a Higgs boson, was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang. The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the "God particle."

The discovery would be a strong contender for the Nobel Prize. Last July, scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, announced finding a particle they described as Higgs-like, but they stopped short of saying conclusively that it was the same particle or was some version of it.

Scientists have now finished going through the entire set of data.

"The preliminary results with the full 2012 data set are magnificent and to me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is," said Joe Incandela, a physicist who heads one of the two main teams at CERN, each involving several thousand scientists.

Whether or not it is a Higgs boson is demonstrated by how it interacts with other particles and its quantum properties, CERN said in the statement. After checking, scientists said the data "strongly indicates that it is a Higgs boson."

The results were announced in a statement by the Geneva-based CERN and released at a physics conference in the Italian Alps.

CERN's atom smasher, the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider that lies beneath the Swiss-French border, has been creating high-energy collisions of protons to investigate how the universe came to be the way it is.

The particle's existence helps confirm the theory that objects gain their size and shape when particles interact in an energy field with a key particle, the Higgs boson. The more they attract, so the theory goes, the bigger their mass will be.


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12 comments:

  1. Some of your readers will ask themselves what the applications are and whether it's worth the price tag. Fair question, but difficult to answer confidently. It's certainly not about refining big bang cosmology.
    The highs boson goes some way to answering one of the most basic puzzles in physics: why is gravitational mass always equal to inertial mass? Getting to grips with that might have endless applications in eg power generation, propulsions, eeapons. But it's blue sky, so no-one can predict. Historically physics research has fed back into the economy most handsomely: honestly we should ask ourselves why we don't do a whole lot more of it!

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  3. I don't understand this, Jez. It's way outside my ken, but it sounded as though some sort of "breakthrough" might have been achieved.

    I am not one of these idiotic "conservatives" who wishes we had never left the Stone Age, believe me. ;-)

    I couldn't agree more that honest, independent, apolitical, non-agenda-driven, non-self-serving research would be the best thing we could do for ourselves.

    It's unfortunate that most people want to believe that experimental work and thinking, itself, must be a waste of time, because it produces practical, useful, profitable results so rarely.

    The item about obesity in lesbians is a handy case in point. I don't feature such material because I necessary agree with it, but more because the type and quality of response it engenders fascinates me, even as much of it disgusts -- and even frightens.

    As you well know, Civilization progresses at a maddeningly slow, uneven pace, and seems to regress at least as much as it advances in each generation. It appears that whenever we learn something new it causes many new problems that offset the gain.

    The tremendous Flowering that came in the wake of the Enlightenment and the great spate of new mechanical devices that revolutionized society brought with it the many evils we're struggling with today -- i.e. "dark, satanic mills" and all that.

    SO, in a very real sense, despite all the progress brought by Science and Technology the vast majority seem trapped still in the Dark Ages.

    The Buddhists claim -- I think correctly -- that heaven and hell -- and thousands of nuanced states in between -- exist simultaneously in every life. Where we are depends solely on the quality of our thinking -- NOT our material circumstances.

    Dialectical materialists are perpetually at war with the very thought of "spiritual enlightenment" as a possible "Road out of Darkness." The conflict generated by that particular form of bigotry has wrought havoc.

    As I said, Civilization advances at a maddeningly slow and uneven pace.

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  4. I'm a complete idiot when it comes to physics. **sigh**

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  5. I wonder if the Higgs Field plays a part in the generation of ion cyclotron waves...

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  6. There's that fear of the dialectic again --- man's consciousness forms history. Doesn't even seem to contradict the Buddha.

    Or in the economic realm that dictates a complex economic system will eventually lose efficiency due to its internal contradictions. Seems worth understanding, no?
    Economic systems decay just like subatomic particles.

    It's all good.

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  7. Fj: not much, the ion cyclotron wave looks like a straightforwardly magnetic effect. On the other hand, the higgs field is involved ineverything.
    Freethinke: i see the value of the buddhist position, but i do think a certain amount of abundance is a necessary foundation to spiritual (I would say psychological) satisfaction.

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  8. Well, Jez,

    To put it as simply and succinctly as possible:

    Necessity is the Mother of Invention -- not the other way 'round.

    Everything of value our species has accomplished stemmed from a mysterious yearning to improve our circumstances. I'm sure other animals have similar yearnings, but, apparently, they are not equipped with anything like the capacity for Imagination, Vision and Ambition given to us.

    Ergo, we could say Yearning ultimately produces Thought, and Thought Invention -- with many bumps in between, of course.

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  9. Perhaps playfulness is a type of yearning.

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  10. " ... playfulness is a type of yearning."

    Interesting thought. Yes. It's a distinct possibility.

    So, of course, is aggression -- our most lamentable trait.

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  11. Oh, aggression is unquestionably a great driver of innovation. Eg. one of the main reasons the industrial revolution happened in europe is that we invested so much in war (an arms race in canon led to machining sufficiently accurate to make a piston).

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  12. As I said, aggression is undoubtedly our most lamentable trait.

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