Wednesday, July 4, 2012

youtube for the day/ Peter Higgs gets to see his theory confirmed!

Not much more to say.  I grew up knowing that I was living during the electroweak unification period(confirmed experimentally at CERN in 1983-4).  There was also the great theory of Alan Guth of Inflationary theory confirmed by the COBE satellite around 1989.  We're also living in the accellerating universe era which is our own aether disproven scratch our head over that scientific discovery!(which I first read in Sky and Telescope around 1998). 

It's almost hard for most people to understand the great times we're living in.  We need to get people to understand true intellectual excitement; this is what this blog is for!  These guys have done real science - not mythology.

Peter Higgs and Fabiola Gianotti.  Fabiola is in charge of the Atlas detector(the Atlas actually works in concert with the cms making the technology doubly impressive!).

The picture on the right the signature of the Higgs particle.  The signature appears to be higgslike; We knew going in the Higgs theory could be many variants, and the Higgs could be higgslike with differences.  The LHC is of course now in the process of trying to get more data to find out more about the what this Higgs is like; which Higgs theory works.

Also, as I've remarked before, the discovery of the Higgs is much as the discovery of the planet Neptune.  Mathematicians and Astronomers had been collecting data and generalizing Newton's mathematics and astronomy in his Principia for a hundred years(from the likes of the Bernoulis, Leonard Euler, Lagrange, Laplace and others) till Laplace published his massive five volume almost thousand page each "Celestial Mechanics."  In studying and using these books, mathematicians had told astronomers that there's an anamoly in the motions of the outer gas giants; the likely explanation(because Newtonian mechanics was proven experimentally correct already) was that there's a planet beyond even Uranus(discovered in the 1700s by William Herschel; something else the Bible failed to mention; not just the americas).  Astronomer's eventually built telescopes of sufficient resolution power, pointed them at the time and place the mathematicians said so, and there it was! 

Similary, today's physicists have had an experimentally confirmed standard model for awhile now, and they've more or less known where to look(due to the then hard to confirm experimentally top quark); well, they built the machine(the lhc), powered it up(they actually confimed the electroweak theory and all physics discovered by particle accelerators before it to 'calibrate' the Lhc) searched around it just in case, but eventually, deciding to go ahead and tune it where they though it was; and, there it is!  This is a hugh scientific and technological achievement!

---------------------------------July 5th edit----------------------------------------------------

A good way of appreciating how significant a discovery of the Higgs is . . . before quantum mechanics and Special/General theory of relativity, scientific understanding was kind of 'normal'(there was the Maxwell work on light as electromagnetism which is a bit of a mindblower if you think about it; it's quite unexpected that light would have anything to do with electricity and magnetism; it's also still a bit of a mystery!).  The Newtonian world view was one of balistic balls richecheting off one another.  Perhaps another discovery a little bit before quantum mechanics and relativity theory was the electron.  It's a bit hard to imagine the affect of even the existence of atoms had on even physicists at the time.  But, an electron?  A 'sub'-atomic particle?

But, then came quantum mechanics and the relativity theories; now the world was scientifically weird.  General Relativity was to lead to neutron stars and black holes.  Quantum mechanics soon led to anti-matter, neutrinoes(particles that can go through lightyears of lead and not hit anything; they suggest that dark matter can work), quarks(fractional charges).  One should also mention quantum entanglement as a quantum weirdness phenomenon that is already being used technologically.  The Higgs particle is in this class of quantum weirdness particles.  Homo Erectus handling fire is treamendous accomplishment for biological life; so is flight in air or out into space.  All these new things from black holes to now the Higgs is as amazing as a species that can use fire and electricity. In fact, I've seen people noting that the higgs particle may one day lead to technological revolutions!

What's next?  Dark matter!  Hidden dimensions!

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