Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Higgs Boson

There was excitement at the European Physics Society conference in Grenoble, France last week as physicists gathered to review evidence for the detection of the Higgs particle. With the latest data, the LHC is finally returning on its investment while the Tevatron at Fermilab is bravely battling on before its imminent closure in September. But why is the Higgs particle so important?

The Standard Model of particle physics is the most successful and accurate theory ever created. Physicists such as Anthony Zee have lauded it as mankind’s greatest achievement, the pinnacle of human thought (Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell, p. 455). Yet it is not widely understood that the Standard Model predicts that all particles will be massless, and so travelling at the speed of light.

You will have noticed that this appears not to be the case ...

Continue reading.


I posted the above article to sciencefiction.com - and then decided it was too technical for the audience. Lagrangians don't sit too well with Captain America and Torchwood. The editor was at pains to reassure me that there is a class of people 'out there' who quite like my science pieces. So we've gone with it. As I said in the comment:

"I spent years hearing about the Higgs particle and how it was 'very important' for our understanding of the universe. I was intensely irritated that no-one ever explained *why* it was important, or how it connected to those parts of quantum mechanics and relativity that I did understand.

Eventually I did some more work and got at least the framework sorted. Closure at last -- so I'm delighted to share :-)"