Mike Sterling for Canadian Community News
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News this week from the now shutdown Fermi Lab Collider shows that the tantalizing results from the giant Hadron Collider are getting close to a yes or no answer for 'the god particle'. The analysis of past data shows results in concert with what has been found so far by the Large Hadron.
What is going on? Talking to people this week, we see that there is a lot of confusion. Guess what? Scientists don't communicate well, but all of us have to listen a bit too.
Some people were confusing the search for the Higgs with the recent bogus news about the speed of light being bested. It seems like a loose cable might have accounted for the news flash some time ago that scientists had found something going faster than good old light. Rest in peace Einstein. All is well.
The search for the Higgs Boson is something quite different. Scientists have a thing called 'The Standard Model'. It helps them put order to the universe from the very large to the very small. At the small end there did not seem to be anything that told them what would or could account for the mass of everything. Our senses tell us that objects have mass, but where do objects get it? Seems like a good question, don't you think?
Things at rest resist movement, things in motion tend to stay in motion. Newton knew that and ascribed the term mass (not weight) to that part of how things work.
What accounts for mass is a next logical question? Newton was silent on that part of it. He might have been off on his alchemy hobby. Everything with the possible exception of the photon seems to have mass, but what is this 'god particle' that gives an apple or a ship mass?
In 1964 a professor from Scotland named Peter Higgs (still living with a good deal of mass in Scotland) proposed the possible existence of a particle later named the Higgs Boson might in fact exist and account for mass. Einstein had a similar idea. Higgs integrated his theory into the larger 'about everything' physics.
From the time of Higgs proposal to now, scientists have been on the lookout for the Higgs. Like the great boxer Joe Louis said of illusive opponent Billy Conn. 'He can run, but he cannot hide", scientists have looked all over the place for the Higgs. Have scientists under rated the Higgs like Louis did Conn in their first fight, or are they narrowing the search?
It appears that the latter is true. There is a chance that the Higgs as they have foreseen it, does not exist, but scientists are sure that they are searching in the right place at the right range of electron volts. The signature of the collision in the Large Hadron Collider is known, if it exists. (see picture above of a simulated Higgs signature) They say that by end of 2012, they will know whether or not the Higgs exists. What if it does not exist?
If it does not exist, they will need another subatomic particle, theory or field to do what the Higgs does for what they term as the Standard Model
If the Higgs does exist as proposed, what is the rest of the story? There is always more.
Back to the neutrino travelling faster than light mistake due to a loose cable. We know that 'stuff' happens.
I remember being at the prestigious IBM Watson Research Labs. They had some of the best computer scientists in residence there. I was in a huge lab full of networked super computers. A demo was to be done on a new way of doing things. Nothing was working!
Scientists and technicians were wandering around with code listings or peering at displays and dials.
I was an outside observer working on a joint project. Out of boredom, I began to look at the connections to this HAL like gaggle of computers. Hmmm, there is a red button not labeled, but in a control unit at the heart of the maze, I thought. Out of a sense of fun, I pushed the button. I was drawn to it like a child to M&Ms. HAL came to life and every eye was then on me.
Sometimes it is the simple minded pushing the simple on/off button. I like to think I would have checked for loose cables with the speed of light, but I'm not sure.
I returned from a long trip recently and tried to hook up my own maze of wires, displays and computers only to find that the primary computer was not on the net. I was puzzled. I did not bother to check the other computers. Could it be the recent power failure? Could it be this or that? No, it was just a cable that needed to be seated properly and off we go.
I hope they find the Higgs. I think 82 year old Peter Higgs and by proxy Einstein deserve a Nobel prize, if they do. Of course they don't give them to dead people, like Einstein. They don't like speeches that dead people deliver. They take an eternity to deliver.
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Thursday, March 08, 2012