Peter Woit
Mathematical Physicist, Columbia University

God Particle or Hype Particle?

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The discovery of the so-called "God Particle" won't have any practical implications in your life—at least not anytime soon—says one physicist.

Peter Woit

Peter Woit is a mathematical physicist at Columbia University. He graduated in 1979 from Harvard University with bachelor's and master's degrees in physics and obtained his PhD in particle theory from Princeton University in 1985. A prominent critic of string theory, he published a book on the subject, Not Even Wrong, in 2006, and maintains a blog of the same title.


Big Think: Will discoveries made using the LHC have any practical applications?

Peter Woit: The general problem with particle physics is that these questions we are asking are happening at such high energy scales in such short distances that it's very hard to see how to do anything very practical with this. I mean, anything - like the particle we are talking about often have lifetimes which are 10 to the minus 20 seconds. I mean, there just - If you produce a Higgs particle it's going to be so short lived it's incredibly difficult to see any evidence of the thing. It's not something that you're going to be able to go out and use these Higgs particles to carry around and do something with.

On the other hand, you don't really know what you're going to find, if you do find. Especially if you find something - I guess I could say it this way. If you do just find this Higgs particle and this Higgs field, it's very hard to make or to do anything really practical with that. If you find some completely new understanding of this theory then who knows. You can conjecturably come up with all sorts of models. You can come up with models in which there's kind of new, heavy, long-lived particles which you can then imagine doing things with. I think it's a pretty good bet that within the near future, this is not really particularly practical. This is really not a - just trying to understand the world better, but not in a way that's particularly going to be useful for doing anything too practical that's going to affect people anytime soon