Over two years ago I wrote a blog entry entitled “Brave New World.” In that entry I mused about the possibilities of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, about its search for the Higgs boson and the idea that everything we know about the world can change in the blink of an eye. When the LHC was started for the first time, there was a lot of excitement going around in the physics community. Particle physicists were waiting anxiously for results to surface. However, for over two years the LHC was riddled with problems. The magnets were broken, or too strong to hold the current and other such things that spelled a serious handicap for the LHC. The friendly competitors at Fermilab, near Chicago, now had the possibility to maybe beat the folks at CERN. The Tevatron at Fermi however was closed in 2011. Results of many of the experiments however were still being analyzed and showed a definite possibility of a Higgs boson. In early July of 2012 the elusive Higgs boson, or a particle that at least had the possibilities of the Higgs, was discovered at CERN. Peter Higgs himself was present and so were many physicists and observers of the wider particle physics community. But did Miranda’s brave new world appear? Continue reading “A “brave new world” revealed, not?!?”
“Brave New World”
A Brave New World that has such ‘particles’ in it. As Miranda in The Tempest looks at the people that enter the island she lives on, she is perplexed by the newness that they bring to her little, self-contained world. The physicists at CERN seem to look at every new particle they discover with the same awe and wonder. In Miranda’s case, the people she remarks upon as new are equally astonished by her and think her to be the news. Both sides are not aware that they actually come from the same area, the same background even and are way more similar than they think possible. I do not want to create a similarity between particle physicists and new particles, but part of the message of The Tempest is about discovery of something that one already knows almost inherently and that does strike me as a similarity to the research at CERN. Physicists there discover ‘new’ particles and have new insights into a universe that subsequently seems to be very alien to the world we inhabit but still is the same. Continue reading ““Brave New World””
The God particle! Or is it?
The search for the elusive Higgs-boson is the driving force between the fierce, but allegedly friendly, competition between the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the Tevatron at Fermilab. Since CERN has decided at the beginning of the month that the LHC will run throughout the winter, an otherwise unusual practice because of the high energy consumption, it probably will win the race, or so they hope.
The reason why it is so important to win that race is that the Higgs boson plays a central role in the Standard Model of particle physics, but is the only particle in that same model that is not yet discovered. The discovery of the Higgs-boson would explain the existence of mass in the universe and the distribution of mass among the particles. It sounds like something of an ultimate explanation for the last open questions in physics.
But what happens then? String theorists argue that the smallest entities in the universe are strings which constitute the particles. In their view the Higgs-boson would not be the ultimate explanation. But should not the question be if we can “ultimately” explain something at all? The Higgs-boson is called the God particle. But what do we mean by that? That God has created that particle? That the Higgs-boson is God? That the existence of the particle proves God’s existence? That God is behind the Big Bang? And if it is discovered, does physics as a discipline all of a sudden stops, because everything is now explained. Of course not, is the obvious answer for most. But why is it then called the God particle? What is that supposed to be telling us?
For those interested in news updates about CERN from the Times, go here.
For an interesting article about science and its relation to religion, read the following:
Margaret Cavendish on the Relation between God and World
By Karen Detlefsen, University of Pennsylvania
(Vol. 4, May 2009)