Tuesday, December 13, 2011

terrific tuesday: string theory revisited

beads and glass
nuclear physics modelled using mixed media :)

So, it looks like I should revisit my original post on string theory and issue an apology to CERN for suggesting an over-consumption of stimulatory baked goods.

This morning, two teams at CERN, ATLAS and CMS, announced that they have caught tantalising glimpses of the Higgs boson particle and now have evidence to work on an absolute proof. This is exciting for physicists everywhere, unless they are firm advocates of the Higgsless Model, but could see demotion from theoretical particle physicist to boring old proven particle physicist. Or is it a demotion to have your theories proven in your lifetime, I wonder?

There are many wonderful explanatory websites out there to explain exactly what the Higgs Boson, or goddam particle as it was originally termed in popular literature, does ... but I'll give it the same mangling as I did with string theory. Read on!

Well, I'm not a particle physicist (nor do I play one on television) so the best I can come up with is that for particles to have mass they need to possess charge, and the "only way"* that this can be explained is through the existence of the Higgs Field. As subatomic particles pass through the theoretical Higgs Field of charge they gather a thin coating of positive or negative rather analagous to swimming through a pool of treacle or taking part in a mud race (with thanks to wikipedia for leading me gently by the hand through all of this). As the particle moves it can gather more mass in the shape of charge, and it's the Higgs boson, an elementary particle, which is the proposed mechanism by which this charge sticks. So by finding the Higgs boson, the Higgs Field theory of mass acquisition and thus the last piece of the puzzle that is the Standard Model of Particle Physics will be in place. deep breath

Yes! As you can read from the above paragraph, I understand it less than I do string theory (which IMO made way more sense), but I do understand the almost childish air of scientific excitement reaching out across the scientific internet today. It is an exciting near-discovery. We all might get a Higgs boson for Christmas :)

*unless you go Higgsless, that is
PS: i apologise

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