Friday, 15 March 2013 13:33

Are You Smart on the Higgs Boson?

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Are You Smart on the Higgs Boson?

Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, announced yesterday that they’re even more certain than they were last summer (like, more than 99.999999999 percent sure) that they've seen a Higgs boson particle—even if it’s not the Higgs boson particle.

Why does it even matter? Well, let's start with, this is a discovery that could potentially change our entire understanding of how the universe works. So, to avoid being a complete nub on this issue, what do you need to know and what can you say if someone brings up the subject?


What is a Higgs Boson?


“Yes, but does it fit the Standard Model?”

The Higgs boson is said to be the last elusive piece of the puzzle in the Standard Model of physics, confirming our understanding of how particles acquire mass and experiences forces. The only question now is whether or not the Higgs boson the CERN scientists have seen is the one that fits in the Standard Model, and not a different model, which seems likely. “I’m confident that it’s a Higgs particle. I don’t need to call it Higgs-like any more,” said Joe Incandela, spokesman for the CMS team at Cern.

“You know, Higgs quit Greenpeace over GMOs.”

Peter Higgs is the British theoretical physicist that was one of the first scientists to theorize the existence of this new particle, the Higgs boson, back in 1964. There were some other physicists that had talked about it too, but Higgs got his name on it.

“It’s still chilly in Geneva.”

CERN is home to the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, a giant underground ring that’s almost 17 miles in circumference. Inside the LHC they can smash protons into one another at nearly the speed of light, and the collisions release a very small amount of energy that lasts for a fraction of a second that SOMETIMES contains a Higgs boson. Now you understand why it’s so difficult to be sure.

“Goddamn particle, actually.”

The Higgs boson is often called the “God particle,” but a) Higgs has said that was never the intention of Leon Lederman, whose book popularized the phrase, and b) there is nothing really god-like about it. Yes, it’s important, but more in a this-is-a-fundamental-question-of-physics and not in a THIS IS THE MEANING OF IT ALL way. If your goal is to sound half-way intelligent on this stuff, stick with Higgs boson.

“Zero spin!”

Without it, we’re all just massless, meaningless subatomic specks of dust floating in space (kidding). If it turns out the Higgs boson doesn’t exist, or if there are more than one kind of Higgs bosons, scientists would really have to reevaluate basing assumptions on the The Standard Model of physics—the one we’ve been working off of for the past 40 or so years.

If it is a Higgs boson (which it looks to be!) it would be the first elementary particle with zero spin, which sounds cool more than anything. More importantly though, the existence of the Higgs boson would support the existence of the Higgs field, our rationale for why some particles have mass and others do not. This type of fundamental knowledge is crucial when explaining the existence of stars, planets … humans.


Read 3118 times Last modified on Saturday, 21 February 2015 12:55
Rich Wermske

My pedigree and bona fides are published elsewhere. That said, I respect that a few may wish to learn more about the private person behind the writing.  While I accept I am exceptionally introverted (tending toward the misanthropic), I do enjoy socializing and sharing time with like-minded individuals. I have a zeal for integrity, ethics, and the economics of both interpersonal and organizational behavior.

The product of multi-generational paternal dysfunction, I practice healthy recovery (sobriety date December 11, 2001).  I am endogamous in my close personal relationships and belong to a variety of tribes that shape my worldview (in no particular order):

☯ I participate in and enjoy most geek culture. ☯ I am a practicing Buddhist and a legally ordained minister. I like to believe that people of other spiritual/faith systems find me approachable.  I am a member of the GLBTQA community -- I married my long-time partner in a ceremony officiated by Jeralita "Jeri" Costa of Joyful Joinings on November 18, 2013, certificated in King County, Seattle WA. We celebrate an anniversary date of February 2, 2002.  I am a service-connected, disabled, American veteran (USAF).  I am a University of Houston alumnus (BBA/MIS) and currently studying as a post baccalaureate for an additional degree in Philosophy and Law, Values, & Policy.  I am a retired Bishop in the Church of Commerce and Capitalism; the story arch of my prosecuting and proselytizing the technological proletariat is now behind me.  I am a native Houstonian (and obviously Texan).  At 50 years old, I am a "child of the sixties" and consider the 80's to be my formative years.

As I still struggle with humility, I strive to make willingness, honesty, and open mindedness cornerstones in all my affairs. Fourteen years of sobriety has taught me that none of "this" means a thing if I'm unwilling, dishonest, or close minded.  Therefore I work hard on the things I believe in --

  • I believe we can always achieve more if we collaborate and compromise.
  • I believe that liberal(ism) is a good word/concept and something to be proud to support.  The modern, systematic corruption of liberal ideas is a living human tragedy.
  • I believe in a worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The pragmatism of this site and my journey is rooted in both classical and social liberalism.
  • I believe in democratic elections and institutions including a media free of commercial and governmental bias.  Liberty and equality perish when a society becomes uneducated and/or ill-informed.
  • I believe in diversity of life and ideas.  Life and ideas can only flourish when the gene pool is vast and abundantly differentiated.
  • I believe in advancing balance in civil, social, and privacy rights such that all of humanity is continuously uplifted.
  • I believe in separation of church (spirituality) and state (governance) -- with neither in supremacy nor subjugation.
  • I believe in private (real or tangible) property explicitly excluding ideas, knowledge, and methods; such non-tangibles, by natural law, being free for all humanity and emancipated at conception.

While change and the uncertainty of the future may be uncomfortable, I do not fear the unknown; therefore:

    • I believe I must be willing to make difficult choices, that those choices may not be all that I desire, and that such may result in undesirable (or unintended) consequences;
    • I believe we must be willing to make mistakes or be wrong; and I am willing to change my mind if necessary.
I undertake to abide the five precepts of Buddhism; therefore:
  1. I believe it is wrong to kill or to knowingly allow others to kill.
  2. I believe it is wrong to steal or to knowingly allow others to steal.
  3. I believe in abstention from sexual misconduct.
  4. I believe it is wrong to lie or to knowingly allow others to lie.
  5. I believe in abstention from non-medicinal intoxicants as such clouds the mind.

Suicide, major depression, borderline personality, and alcoholism are feral monsters ever howling at my doorstep. However, despite my turbulent and tragic past, rare is the day where I have to rationalize, defend, or justify the actions of that person I see looking back at me in the mirror...

Network neutrality is the principle that Internet users should be in control of what content they view and what applications they use on the Internet. The Internet has operated according to this neutrality principle since its earliest days. It is this neutrality that has allowed the internet to innovate and grow. Without equal access the internet dies.