Cathi Carol

The Higgs Boson

In Physics, Quantum Physics, Science on July 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm

NGC 4565

Pie, people.




Peter HiggsPeter Higgs

CERN physicists have declared the possible finding of what physicist Leon Lederman, a card, took to calling “The God Particle”, the Higgs boson.

The CERN physicists are not sure yet that what they have found is the Higgs, though, so for now they are calling it a “Higgs-like” particle.

Like many thinking people, I am skeptical of the whole thing.

I have been ignoring modern particle physics for a while (although I never stop thinking about it) for reasons I’ll explain below.

Remember “the ether”? One of the many beliefs scientists of yorish possessed that we learned to sneer at – how stupid people were back then! – in high school physics class?

Nobel Prize winning physicist Leon M. Lederman

Well, you may find this hard to believe, but for thousands of years people have been just as intelligent, or just as dumb, as we are today.

Higgs theory is very elegant. I like it very much, as far as it goes.

But that’s not very far. The Standard Model is starting to fray around the edges.

The one thing I do know is that future scientists will laugh at, and teach their students to laugh at, what physicists believe today.

The Higgs Boson is likely not what scientists think it is. There are many problems with the concept of a Higgs particle, and no understanding at all of what the Higgs field might be.

Ignorance that is going to hang up progress in physics for a long time.

CMS Events - CERN

What I find most amusing about the supposed discovery of a Higgs-like particle is the assertion that always accompanies new discoveries in physics, the proud delusion, “This will end science as we know it. Everything that can be discovered now has been discovered.”

This recurring belief reflects gross ignorance.

And net arrogance.

Physics has been “over”, “completed”, “everything known” many times. Over and over and over again physics has been declared finished. Yet it never is, of course.

Physics certainly isn’t anywhere near being “done” now, since physicists are still heading in the wrong direction – in many wrong directions – due to its doomed pursuit of String Theory, and its continued stubborn materialism, despite the tantalizing glimpses of a true Theory of Everything afforded by quantum theory. It’s unbelievable!

Physicists still are leaping onto their respective individual theory-horses and dashing off madly in all directions. Few directions are the right ones.

Yet let some poor schlub physicist invent something in his mind that the multiple hive-mind of physics finally manages to create in a matter-smasher (exactly as imagined – has any postulated particle ever eventually not been “found”?), and suddenly physics is thought to be over. At least in the news.

Physicists believe that they are putting together the pieces of the puzzle of the universe, not realizing that they are the ones cutting up the pieces in the first place.

Higgs Event - Wikipedia

The puzzle of the universe is that it is a whole, a one, that looks like a many.

Physicists chip away at the whole, capture what flies off, call it something, and then try to fit it back into the whole in a way that makes some sense of the whole.

That won’t happen until they get all the way down to the bottom of matter/energy/force. I won’t spoil the “surprise”.

But physicists are taking too many detours along the way.

Every theory physicists come up with requires an assumption here, a cosmological constant there, a glitch in the other place, an instability around the back.

Physicists are not getting anywhere near to a Grand Unification Theory because they’re still cutting things up. They will when they start to put things back together.

Reductionism will peter out eventually. There comes a point where reductionism devolves into the understanding that one is creating, not discovering.

I love quantum physics. I love it all – quarks, you know, mysterious double-slits, uncertainty and action at a distance and triple conservation – it is spellbinding.

"String Theory Summarized" - xkcd

But I lost faith in the 1980s, after quantum physics had turned to String Theory. I had never heard anything more demented.

It was intensely frustrating to me (and some physicists) that most modern theoretical physicists were wasting their time on anything so, um, wrong.

I became even more disillusioned when I realized that physicists believe that there are such things as “force-carrying particles”.

The Standard Model, the coolest thing ever, was starting to look square.

Force = energy = matter. Remember?

Particles are force. Particles are gravity. There is no division into particle-particles and force-carrying particles. Each is the other.

Why would we need gravitons, for instance? Gravity is a property of space-time.

Why would we need any gluons at all when particles carry their own force; that is, when particles are force?

So the slogging out and away from reality and back is slow. But I do believe some physicists are beginning to catch a glimmer, when they look up and away from their invented particles, and remember to take a look at the whole.

Physicists make up theories about the universe, about matter and force and energy, off the tops of their heads (like I do). Then they imagine particles and perform experiments to verify them. They decide what the verifying particles might look like, how they might act, what their properties might be, and then go looking for them in matter-smashers.

Large Hadron Collider - Photo by Maximilien Brice at CERN

Various subatomic particles are run into each other at very high speeds. The pieces that fly out of the smash-up physicists categorize. Physicists categorize subatomic particles the way that botanists categorize plants.

The faster physicists can smash particles together, the more varied are the particle pieces that come flying out.

They keep at this until they manage to kick out a piece that matches up with what they want to find.

Then they announce that they have discovered “it”. (Of course, once they have found one “it”, it always becomes easier to find more. The universe cooperates in any way it can.)

The properties that physicists think their various made-up particles might have are just parameters that they assign to fit some model they have made up. If a bit that flies out of a matter-smasher smash-up fits the parameters they have assigned to the particle that they have made up, then they call the bit that particle.

So circular. It makes me laugh, and cry.

Everything is made out of light. Light is a fundamental “unit”. Instead of ripping things apart, try putting together some light, physicists.

I want to believe that anything called a “God Particle” – anything considered foundational – might be photon-like, or related to the photon.

Or, you know, be the photon.
CMS Events 3 - CERN

All of the particles that physicists think they have discovered are made out of photons. Figure that out and get on with your lives, physicists.

And then start to think about how consciousness fits in.

It is consciousness that creates light.

Almost anything you want to imagine you can create. That is what physicists are doing with their big, bigger,
biggest matter-smashing machines.

Creating. Not finding.

But what do I know?

Imagine very small. Think very big. The universe ultimately is homogenous.

The universe is pie. The harder you throw a pie against the wall, the smaller and more varied will be the pieces that come flying out.

But it is all still pie.
Cherry Pie

Theory (from Wikipedia):

Higgs Boson

Higgsless Model

Did they find what they think they found? Does it mean what they think it means?

Be skeptical. Be very skeptical. Especially of:

String Theory

And even of:

The Standard Model, still beautiful. Just out of date.


The Higgs Boson Explained
Astronomy Picture of the Day, May 1, 2012
A video cartoon. (Grain of salt, people. About everything.)

New Data on Higgs Boson is Shrouded in Secrecy at CERN
Dennis Overbye, New York Times, June 19, 2012

Physicists Inch Closer to Proof of Elusive Particle
Dennis Overbye, New York Times, July 2, 2012

Higgs Boson Found?
“Solid evidence of the “God particle” may be just hours away. Without it, we’d have no galaxies, no planets — and no life, theory says.”
Ker Than, National Geographic News, July 2, 2012
“Theory says.” I don’t believe the theory.

Physicists Find Particle That Could Be The Higgs Boson
“Scientists in Geneva on Wednesday applauded the discovery of a subatomic particle that looks like the Higgs boson.”
Dennis Overbye, New York Times, July 4, 2012

What in the World Is a Higgs Boson?
Dennis Overbye, New York Times, July 4, 2012

CERN physicists say they have discovered ‘Higgs-like’ boson
Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times, July 4, 2012

New Particle Found, Consistent With Higgs Boson
“Discovery May Help Tell Universe’s Secrets”
“After Half-Century Search, Scientists Pin Down Higgs-Like Particle, Closing In on Explanation for Why All Objects Exist”
Gautam Naik, Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2012

Higgs boson: it’s unofficial! Cern scientists discover missing particle
“‘God particle’ that gives mass to the universe thought to have been found in Large Hadron Collider, announce scientists”
Ian Sample, Guardian, July 4, 2012

CERN: We Pretty Much Found The Higgs-Boson
Joe Weisenthal, Business Insider, July 4, 2012

Higgs Boson ‘Discovered’, Existence Of Mass In Universe Explained By ‘God Particle’
Anthony Wing Kosner, Forbes, July 4, 2012

Best explanation of the Higgs boson?
“Former science minister, William Waldegrave, offered a prize in 1993 for the best lay explanation of the Higgs boson. Professor David Miller, of UCL, won the prize with the following analogy.”
BBC News, July 4, 2012
A cartoon. Just like the theory itself.

A Moment for Particle Physics: The End of a 40-Year Story?
Stephen Wolfram (blog), July 5, 2012
I love this. Very nice. Very smart. I love his ennui. I feel the same way.

Still Confused About the Higgs Boson? Read This
Garance Franke-Ruta, Atlantic, July 6, 2012
It doesn’t help, because today’s modern particle physics is your basic out of date gobbletygook.

Faster, Stronger, Earlier: The American Particle Accelerator That Never Was
Robinson Meyer, Atlantic, July 6, 2012
Congress’ biggest science mistake.
(Shame, shame on today’s Republicans for everything wrong with our country right now.)

Our Political Black Hole
Gail Collins, New York Times, July 6, 2012

The Higgs Boson, a Blip That Speaks of Our Place in the Universe
Lawrence M. Krauss, New York Times, July 9, 2012

On the so-called ‘God Particle’
Errant Transcendentalist/Zen Being (blog), July 13, 2012

Peter Higgs’ Big Day
“How does it feel to have your namesake particle discovered?”
Jessica Griggs, New Scientist/Slate, July 29, 2012

Dispatch From CERN: Which Higgs?
Marcelo Gleiser, NPR, February 27, 2013

Dark Matter May Not Exist At All
Michael D. Lemonick, Time, February 26, 2013

Case for Higgs Boson Strengthened by New CERN Analysis
Simeon Bennett, Bloomberg, March 14, 2013

Scientists More Certain that Particle is Higgs Boson
Elizabeth Landau, CNN, March 16, 2013


Why would I care about the Higgs boson?
CMS Experiment, CERN, 2 July 2012

Observation of a New Particle with a Mass of 125 GeV
CMS Experiment, CERN, 4 July 2012

CERN experiments observe particle consistent with long-sought Higgs boson
CERN Press Release, 4 July 2012


The God Particle:  If the Universe is the Question, What is the Answer?
Leon Lederman and Dick Teresi. Houghton Mifflin, 1993; 2012.

Not Even Wrong:  The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law
Peter Woit. Basic Books, 2006; 2007.

Find more books on Quantum Physics at my Amazon Store.

Related Posts:

See my Physics post category.

Photo/Art Credit:

NGC 4565: Galaxy on Edge
Image Credit & Copyright: Ken Crawford (Rancho Del Sol Obs.)
Astronomy Picture of the Day, July 5, 2012

The inserts are from CERN and Wikipedia.





© 1980-2012 Cathi Carol. All rights reserved.
Last Updated: March 17, 2013
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