Sunday, June 24, 2012

Higgs - Squisite Timing

Whoop - There It Is...
Despite an unusual and somewhat corrosive institutional secrecy, it is increasingly likely that CERN physicists will announce the "discovery" of the Higgs Boson at the ICHEP conference next month in Australia.  This will make science geeks like me very happy, and we'll spend hours digging through the data they release, but at the same time the announcement will receive a lot of hype, and we'll see a lot of people with expensive haircuts "explaining" the Standard Model and the implications of the discovery of the Higgs in grossly dumbed-down terms that will honestly sound like the scraping of fingernails on a chalkboard.  So here's a few things I think are important:

1.) This is not a discovery, not in any real sense, but rather a confirmation.  The Standard Model has been such an accurate predictor of the properties of matter that the existence of the Higgs, as a key part of the Standard Model, is really a near-certainty.  Obviously, you can't state unequivocally that the particle exists without actually seeing it, but in terms of breakthrough discoveries the interesting part is not so much the particle itself as determining its mass and characteristics.

2.) We've already observed the Higgs.  High energy physics is a statistical process, where you have to see something enough times to determine that it is an actual phenomenon, and not just spurious noise.  The Higgs signal was there in the data from last years LHC run at 7Tev, with a confidence of 3 sigmas, or 3 Standard deviations - about 99.7% confidence.  However, that's not considered enough certainty in the physics community to make an announcement - for that they need to look at a lot more data and see the event with a confidence of 5 sigmas.  But in reality, if something is 99.7% certain, it's fair to say that it's real.

3.) The Higgs is not a Baryon or Lepton - that is, it's not a particle in the sense of a Proton, a Neutron or an Electron.  The Standard Model addresses not only the elementary particles, but the elementary forces of nature, and there is a class of particles, called Bosons, that carry and mediate those forces.  The Higgs is the most massive of the Standard Model Bosons, mediating the Higgs Field in order to impart mass to matter.  In other words, it's not so much "stuff" as it is one of the properties of "stuff".

I very much hope we can get the Higgs announcement behind us now.  There is so much interesting physics to be done at LHC, and once we are routinely working with the Higgs Boson we will have a chance to learn how it works, and start working on much harder problems that we genuinely don't know the answer to.  LHC will finish it's 2012 run at 8TeV energies, then shut down for a couple years to upgrade the hardware necessary to run at its rated capacity of 14TeV.

These mind-boggling energies will open the way for humans to begin to answer even more fundamental questions such as SuperSymmetry, Dark Matter and someday, maybe, some mechanism to connect Relativity and Gravity to Quantum Mechanics.  This represents the highest accomplishment of humans and their governing institutions, the investment of national wealth and treasure into a massive project that serves no profit motive, but unlocks the secrets of the universe for no other reason than the basic human quest for knowledge.

One more thing.  In the course of the discussions of the Higgs Boson this summer, you will hear a great deal of discussion of things like string theory and multiple universes.  It is very important to understand that, in spite of the way they will be presented, these are NOT science.  These are elegant mathematical theories that make no testable predictions and cannot be falsified.  They are very smart people noodling about things we cannot know, but they serve no real purpose in the world of science.  Despite the convictions of advocates such as Laura Mersini-Houghton, it is by definition impossible to take measurements of something outside our universe.


  1. I am also not looking forward to the inevitable idiotic media and internet discussions of "scientists found God!" because hey look it says God Particle! in much the same way that evolution is only a 'theory' and Socialism is fascism because the Nazis said National Socialism.

    moronic discourse makes me irritable.

  2. That's the Village People...

  3. There is so much interesting physics to be done at LHC

    I have been promised a black-hole apocalypse and I am getting impatient.

  4. Perhaps you should go back to planning to drive a car through a building...

  5. Update AAAS religious trade union concepts:
    Natural Selection Is Ubiquitous

    Higgs Particle? Dark Energy/Matter? Epigenetics?
    These Are YOK!
    Update Concepts-Comprehension…

    Evolution Is The Quantum Mechanics Of Natural Selection.
    The quantum mechanics of every process is its evolution.
    Quantum mechanics are mechanisms, possible or probable or actual mechanisms of natural selection.

    Universe-Energy-Mass-Life Compilation

    A. The Universe

    From the Big-Bang it is a rationally commonsensical conjecture that the gravitons, the smallest base primal particles of the universe, must be both mass and energy, i.e. inert mass yet in motion even at the briefest fraction of a second of the pre Big Bang singularity. This is rationally commonsensical since otherwise the Big would not have Banged, the superposition of mass and energy would not have been resolved.

    The universe originates, derives and evolves from this energy-mass dualism which is possible and probable due to the small size of the gravitons.

    Since gravitation Is the propensity of energy reconversion to mass and energy is mass in motion, gravity is the force exerted between mass formats.

    All the matter of the universe is a progeny of the gravitons evolutions, of the natural selection of mass, of some of the mass formats attaining temporary augmented energy constraint in their successive generations, with energy drained from other mass formats, to temporarily postpone, survive, the reversion of their own constitutional mass to the pool of cosmic energy fueling the galactic clusters expansion set in motion by the Big Bang.

    B. Earth Life

    Earth Life is just another mass format. A self-replicating mass format. Self-replication is its mode of evolution, natural selection. Its smallest base primal units are the RNAs genes.

    The genesis of RNAs genes, life’s primal organisms, is rationally commonsensical thus highly probable, the “naturally-selected” RNA nucleotides.

    Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection, self-replication.

    C. Know Thyself. Life Is Simpler Than We Are Told, Including Origin-Nature Of Brain-Consciousness-“Spirituality”***

    The origin-reason and the purpose-fate of life are mechanistic, ethically and practically valueless. Life is the cheapest commodity on Earth.

    As Life is just another mass format, due to the oneness of the universe it is commonsensical that natural selection is ubiquitous for ALL mass formats and that life, self-replication, is its extension. And it is commonsensical, too, that evolutions, broken symmetry scenarios, are ubiquitous in all processes in all disciplines and that these evolutions are the “quantum mechanics” of the processes.

    Human life is just one of many nature’s routes for the natural survival of RNAs, the base primal Earth organisms.

    Life’s evolution, self-replication:

    Genes (organisms) to genomes (organisms) to mono-cellular to multicellular organisms:

    Individual mono-cells to cooperative mono-cells communities, “cultures”.

    Mono-cells cultures evolve their communication, neural systems, then further evolving nerved multicellular organisms.

    Human life is just one of many nature’s routes for the natural survival of RNAs, the base Earth organism.

    It is up to humans themselves to elect the purpose and format of their life as individuals and as group-members.

    Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)

    ***המקור והמהות של "רוחניויות", כולן וירטואליות,
    הרוחניויות נובעות מהמאמינים, לסיפוק ולשימוש שלהם

    An Embarrassingly Obvious Theory Of Everything

    Tags: brain origin, gravitation, gravitons, lifeevolution, nerved organisms, RNAlifehood, spirituality, universeevolution

  6. Man. That's stunningly incoherent.

    Hey Dov! Ever hear of that Einstein guy?