Higgs-steria

I am about to make a shocking and shameful confession. Take a deep breath – here goes.

I don’t understand the Higgs boson.

There I said it. The relief is palpable. The weight of the world has been lifted from my shoulders. I note with irony that if it weren’t for the Higgs the world would have no weight to lift from said over burdened shoulders.   Buggered if I’ve got the fainest idea how that works though.

I’ve chuckled at the Higgs memes and littered this blog with witty references to CERN, large particle colliders and the delightful Professor Brian Cox. But don’t be fooled people. Just because I bandy these terms around doesn’t mean I know Jack Schitt. I am not entitled to wear the T Shirt below.

Can't wear this - it would be inauthentic.

Can’t wear this – it would be inauthentic.

Whilst I get a nerdish giggle out of this type of thing,

BBT has its finger of the pulse and is smokin' hawt!

Swoon! BBT has its finger of the pulse and is smokin’ hawt!

and

A touch of blasphemy

A touch of blasphemy

and

Smut gets is geek on.

Smut gets is geek on.

I am just as clueless as Hansel here but not nearly as adorable.

Yup - me too.

Yup – me too.

As it was supposedly the most important scientific break-through of our young century, I made it my mission to get a very basic understanding of what it all means. Mission failed! Not even Quantum Physics for Dummies was helpful.

A graphic depiction of my struggle with the Higgs.

A graphic depiction of my struggle with the Higgs.

In the end I was reduced to reading science sites for school children. So here’s what those crazy kids know and we don’t.

Do you remember from High School that atoms have a nucleus made of protons and neutrons with smaller electrons whizzing around it? It turns out its actually much more complex than that.

You might remember me from High School

You might remember me from High School

The rockstars of theoretical physics spent the best part of the 1960s delving even further into the atom and building The Standard Model. By contrast regular rockstars cant remember that decade. Anyway these clever Richard’s broke protons and neutrons down to 12 basic particles called the fermions. They also identified four fundamental forces at work down there – the electromagnetic force, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force and gravity. So far so good. They then found that the forces couldn’t do their job without another group of particles known as bosons.  I know I’m having a hard time conceptualizing this bit too. We’ll just have to take the egg heads’ word for it.

Apparently some of these bosons were really quite heavy – as heavy as a sub-atomic particle can get (which is not very but this is all relative). At this point a group of six physicists (including recent Nobel laureate Peter Higgs) came up with a mind warping idea as was fashionable for the time. They postulated that an energy field much like a blanket permeated the universe. George Lucas nicked this concept in the 1970s. This ethereal “blanket” caused some (but not all) of the subatomic particles to drag. The resistance to the “blanket” is what gives things mass. Mass is really just resistance to being moved around. To prove the blanket’s existence big science set out to make it wobble. The “wobble” is basically the Higgs boson.

Fifty years and several billion euros later the Higgs boson was found by the troupe at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland. An idea that sounds like it belongs to the most ridiculous of science fiction/fantasy films was vindicated. The momentous announcement was made to the world’s eager press on July 4th 2013 via a power point presentation in comic sans font.

So now the mystery is solved can particle physicists rest on their laurels? Computer says “no”.

carol-beer med

The Standard Model is in some ways a gigantic pain in the proverbial because whilst it works tremendously well here on earth there’s a heck of alot it doesn’t explain about the cosmos. Firstly we don’t have a grip on how gravity works. Secondly the observations made by astronomers and cosmologists simply dont tally with the theory with have. Galaxies are seen to be spinning so fast that ordinary physics would have them fly apart. Something mysterious was giving them the gravitational hold to keep them together. Scientists came up with the idea of “dark matter” in attempt to explain this. Unfortunately no one knows what dark matter is and the Standard Model hasn’t helped. If that weren’t bad enough apparently the universe is expanding at an accelerating pace which is unexplained by our ideas of gravity. The cause has been dubbed “dark energy” and again no one has a clue what it is. This mysterious force failed to reveal itself through the Standard Model although it did help this guy make it to the top of his profession.

You want dark energy? He'll give you dark energy.

You want dark energy? He’ll give you dark energy.

It looks like the next job for the LHC is to try and create dark matter. Spooky. I for one am worried. If a life time of science fiction has taught me anything its that where there’s dark matter, there’s a rift in the fabric of space time and that is just begging for an alien invasion.

I hope I’ve made this all a little clearer for you. I know it is of vital importance to your daily lives.

Love

Mumabulous

Swoon - You're sooo cool Prof Brian.

Swoon – You’re sooo cool Prof Brian.

34 thoughts on “Higgs-steria

  1. I sort of understood it when I read Higgs Boson for dummies, or at least I think I did, but I probably didn’t :D I love the hunks though, and oh espesh the prof.

    Saw The Counsellor yesterday (cannot bring myself to spell it the American way. Tried. Can’t do it. Sorry American cousins). There are a lot of faults with the movie, though it was overall entertaining, if rather distressing at times. But I now understand your Fassbender obsession. Good grief, if he spoke to me the way he spoke to Penelope Cruz my knickers would combust.

    • Yep – I’ve read the reviews and apparently the Counsellor is big disappointment given the stellar names involved. Plus I’m too much of a big girl’s blouse to sit through sadistic violence or even the threat of sadistic violence. Meanwhile Fass looks to be a shoe in for the Best Supporting Actor gong at the next Academy Awards for 12 Years a Slave. Long term Fass-cinators like myself shall be vindicated. He better bloody thank me in his acceptance speech!

  2. This is very topical as a group of us were talking about the Higgs Boson particle and CERN at the daycare disco on the weekend :) I think you have nailed this complex issue even better than Nick Cave did with his very stormy “Higgs Boson Blues” on his last album.

  3. I want to be cool and understand this but I don’t. Reminds me of the time I read Stephen Hawkins’ “A Brief History of Time” on the school bus to attract the attention of the cute nerdy boy I was interested in. It didn’t work in gaining his attention and I have failed to retain anything that he wrote – big fat fail for me!

  4. I don’t visit for a few weeks and Mumabs goes and gets all sciency on me.
    Yep I read this from top to bottom and I still don’t get it. It’s not you, it’s me.
    Just chuck in a pic of JDepp or CFirth next time you do this and I’ll be sure to have something to say. X

  5. I still don’t get it. But on the Counsellor, Javier carries it. It should have been about him. I think that’s the problem with the film. You have more understanding of a side character, than the main character. Not the point of your post but Alison started it, so I’m jumping in.

  6. I think you have done a pretty fine job in explaining something you apparently do not understand. What I do not understand is what does this particle mean for us, how will it change us and they way we live. All these theories are fascinating but very mind boggling and put us back into our tiny speck in this massive universe of perspective.

    • Pure science always leads to practical spin offs. Already the work done at CERN has led to new developments in laser technology as well as data mining ( sifting through vast quantities of data to get to the info you want).

  7. Hmmm… all a bit much to take in early on a Friday morning!! I’ll make sure I drop this into a conversation today, no doubt my friends will be blown away by my intelligence ;)
    Thanks for the info!

  8. Okay, I think I get it. So… um… basically, what you’re saying is…
    Yeah. Well done, though. It’s not often I visit the land of Abulous and find ‘crumpet’ such as Howard Wolowitz and Darth Vader! x

  9. You know that brain exploding picture? That LITERALLY happened to me earlier today ( loving the overuse of the word literally among today’s misguided youth) so my sad pulpy brain particles have no hope of digesting these Higgs bosoms or bottoms or whatever. Still. Impressive work.

  10. You know this kind of stuff is the stuff that I secretly love reading about but I never tell anyone or talk about, except with my fellow nerd brother-in-law because I already have a reputation as a massive know-it-all amongst my friends and it dents my cool credentials. I find it all extremely fascinating and one of life’s great contradictions. Scientists think they know all this stuff, and they have all these theories, but in the end, when you really get down to it, they really don’t know nothing! And that’s what I love so dearly because it means that anything is truly possible and I live for the day they discover the Stargate and invent faster-than-light travel! Not to mention the fact that I am still waiting for a real, true light saber!

  11. You’ve made it as clear as mud, not much clearer than it was before. All I am left with is lines from the Big Bang Theory, mostly Sheldons and ‘The neutron dance’ from the 80s in my head. I do love how you can make science amusing and entertaining, warp my brain til it hurts and I come out smiling. Huh?

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