Politics of the 'God particle'

You probably heard it somewhere yesterday, certainly by this morning, that scientists at the supercollider in Geneva are 99.99994% sure they have identified "Higgs boson," the so-called "God particle." If nothing else one should appreciate that identifying this subatomic particle is important because it theoretically accounts for mass in the Universe, and therefore for the Universe itself.

But I find myself interested in this God particle on two levels; one purely scientific, the other political.

As Amit Chaudhuri explained the situation in the Brisbane Times, there is some question among physicists about how much credit is rightly due Peter Higgs, the renown 83-year-old theorist at Edinburgh University. Some physicists, Chaudhuri among them, think American physicist Phillip Anderson has been shortchanged. And still others empathize with the plight of Gerald Guralnick, Dick Hagan and Tom Kibble who have been totally ignored in discussions about a Nobel in the field of mass generation.

Scientifically speaking, Higgs boson is a hypothetical elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics that accounts for mass in the Universe. Higgs is credited with the theory that mass generation comes with a "signature particle: a massive boson." The study of mass generation became a crucial task of physicists during the early Sixties in quest of the origin of mass as a property of matter. The so-called "Higgs mechanism" asserts "a field that interacts with particles to endow them with mass," according to Alan Boyle at cosmiclog.msn.com. Otherwise,"by all rights, all particles should be without mass..."

I found two interesting analogies for how this may work. The first involves imagining a party where ordinary partygoers are roaming about freely until a celebrity walks in. Then, suddenly, there is a clot of people around the celebrity; and the clot moves with the celebrity, attaining and maintaining its own momentum. In this scenario the ordinary partygoers are like massless particles, the norm. The celebrity represents that rare particle that possesses mass and endows other particles with mass. The second analogy requires imagining a tray with ping pong balls on it. The balls roll about freely until a layer of sugar is applied to the surface of the tray. Then, suddenly, an "inertial drag" is created. If the Higgs mechanism is conceived as a "field," the layer of sugar could be that field, placing a drag on the ping pong balls, i.e., particles with mass.

The political aspect of this begins with the fact that Anderson had suggested such a theory in 1962, two years before Higgs published on the subject. Anderson's failure seems to have been that he did not develop an "explicit relativistic model." Higgs did. As a separate matter, Ian Sample of the Guardian has been reporting on the Guralink-Hagan-Kibble dilemma since August 2010 when Nature "carried news of a dust-up over who should get the credit for the mass-giving theory that has ended up with Higgs' name." The issue here is only three scientists will be considered for a Nobel while there are six who claim credit for proposing the theory in 1964. Francois Englert and Robert Brout published first, about mass generation, August 31. Higgs published twice in the space of 34 days, September 15 and October 19, specifying the "signature particle" concept. Guralink, Hagan and Kibble published November 16, apparently independent of the prior works.

That's four significant papers on mass generation in the space of three months. But the GHK faction was clearly the last to publish and is likely to continue being ignored in Nobel conversations. As for Phillip Anderson, apparently there is some movement afoot to start calling the Higgs particle the "Anderson-Higgs boson." Of course Anderson is already a Nobel laureate. Maybe for him all this is petty. It's easy to be noble when you've already got a Nobel.

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Comments (21)

  1. This comment has been deleted
  2. stevehayes13

    ‘You probably heard it somewhere yesterday, certainly by this morning, that scientists at the supercollider in Geneva are 99.99994% sure they have identified “Higgs boson,”’ – er, no. In fact, I still haven’t heard this ‘news’, which might be because they haven’t. They discovered a particle. Whether it has the properties that would make it the hypothetical Higgs boson has yet to be determined.

    July 19, 2012
  3. EricCharlesSmith

    You seem to be one of few who are unconvinced.

    July 19, 2012
  4. This comment has been deleted
  5. rebel62

    Also no scientist calls the Higgs boson the “god particle” that is only used by the religious, to make it appear as if science is proving the delusional Christians gods existence.

    January 16, 2014
  6. psuedocelsus12121212

    Bosco Baby. I hereby on firm smelly footed foundation lay down prostrate my arms, life, wife and wealth; but not weapons no matter – mind – to ole higgies whom may try to consecrate it straight….EEEEEEE – when I sacrifice the 1,243,872,552,804 (exact) ‘god particles’ near or about the Earth’s 90% major magnetic thrust – to that fine fellow faithful to his end (pu) but not after; for an unknown reason: along with too the devil’s best friend to the end, the Satan of Amen. Thanks gods. All your hard work. I would be proud to be you’s-all. Yes! I have to hand it to you. Nice and personal like. Like? Right! Love to….Nite!!! PST….. Alone now, ladies! Signed….Johnny Lesbo.

    March 08, 2014
  7. ramatam

    All of the fairy-tales scientists put fourth to try to explain the origin of matter"without GOD" in the universe is a joke. It is a scientific fact that you cannot get something from nothing. If there was nothing before the Big Bang, then what blew up? It is as simple as your wrist-watch , A watch demands a watchmaker, or did it just magically appear on your arm?

    June 30, 2014
    1. mrmacq

      Making Something From Nothing: Researchers Find That Matter Can Be Conjured from a Vacuum

      By

      Clay Dillow
      .
      It is often said that you can’t get something for nothing, but a handful of scientists from the University of Michigan would beg to differ. Theoretically speaking, they say, you can conjure particles from a vacuum under the right conditions. All you need is an ultra-high-intensity laser, a particle accelerator, and an open mind about what exactly “nothing” is (hint: it’s something).

      The first step in understanding their line of thinking is to change the way you look at a vacuum; rather than being an empty void, they say, a vacuum is a balanced combination of matter and antimatter, or particles and antiparticles. These particles have tremendous density but we cannot observe them, for their observable characteristics cancel each other out.

      The researchers have devised a set of equations that suggest a high-energy laser pulse can rip apart the nothingness of a vacuum, turning it into its constituent particles and antiparticles and setting off a chain reaction that actually generates additional matter-antimatter pairs.

      How? When matter and antimatter annihilate each other, gamma photons are produced, and these high-energy particles of light can produce additional electrons and positrons (positrons being the antimatter foil to electrons). But that’s not the whole trick. In a strong laser field, these electrons produced from matter-antimatter annihilation can become a combination of three other particles plus a number of photons.

      This is where you can get bogged down in the physics, but essentially their math says that from a void one can produce electrons and those electrons can be coaxed into becoming a number of other particles, and when it’s all said you have more particles than you started with (because you started with a vacuum). The researchers think this happens in nature near pulsars and neutron stars. Something for nothing. Your Dad was wrong: there is a (theoretical) free lunch after all.
      .
      no gawds required
      oh wait
      so where did your gawd come from?

      June 30, 2014
      1. kdas

        So I guess that wasn’t a negative reply to ramatam, because matter can’t be created from nothing without the specific conditions (wich need matter). I believe in ramatam, because whatever may be the scientists explanation about the origin of the Universe, like “This Universe is the mirror of another one”, or “This Universe is inside a black hole!” They can’t explain whede did that “other” Universe came from, or where should exist matter for such a black hole.

        May 20, 2015
    2. itsrawinhere

      There wasn’t “nothing” before the Big Bang. It’s just that nothing that existed before the Big Bang could affect our current timeline so it is generally disregarded.

      April 23, 2015
      1. wirelessguru1

        Actually, there was no Big Bang!
        ..and nothing is zero (0). Wake up!

        April 23, 2015
  8. ramatam

    You can make up all the facts you want or create your own designer reality, your only fooling yourself. Somethings are true weather you believe it or not.

    July 01, 2014
  9. ramatam

    Buy the way, I stated that you cannot get something from nothing, or life from lifelessness. While I don’t buy your laser beam in a vacuum, a laser beam is something, is it not. And in the famous words of Kevin Costner in JFK, “Theoretical Physics can have an elephant hanging over a cliff with it’s tail tied to a daisy”. There are FACTS then there is theory.

    July 01, 2014
  10. ramatam
    Proclaiming themselves wise, they became fools. Science is inept and is just about at it’s limits to explain anything. The best proof of GOD is that this clueless dumb-ass dip-shit deceived world is so against the thought. And they are always wrong. History is proof that mankind cannot govern itself. It is a never ending rerun of the same mistakes made over thousands of years. Out 3600 years of recorded history, 268 were without war. If you disagree, I can respect that. Must you must admit that all of a sudden, Worldwide, everything is going wrong. And buddy, You ain’t seen nothing yet.

    July 01, 2014
  11. larrytoddstevenson

    I just want to know can the particle accelerrator fling data packet through the earth to hit someone on the other side of the planet, like an x-ray particle that passes through people. Because if it can it should be considered a threat to every nation on earth. War! War! War! just kidding! lol

    March 01, 2015
    1. wirelessguru1

      There are no particles!

      May 20, 2015
      1. monsooncat
        but they do exist as part of an illusion

        May 20, 2015
        1. wirelessguru1

          No, particles do not exist. It is essentially standing wave patterns…

          May 20, 2015
          1. monsooncat

            Depends what you define as exist (like how fictional characters technically exist). Anything to do with the double slit experiment?

            May 20, 2015
            1. wirelessguru1

              Well, then I suppose that imaginary characters do indeed exist in your wet dreams and fertile imagination…
              ..and yes, the double slit experiment confirms that particles do not exist.

              May 20, 2015
  12. hubert77

    good post.
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    December 24, 2015
  13. krishkandan

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    December 28, 2015