The Possible Discovery of the Higgs Will Shake the Foundations of Physics
If the hunt for the God Particle really is over, what does that mean for physics and, more importantly, for you?
Michio Kaku is a futurist, popularizer of science, and theoretical physicist, as well as a bestselling author and the host of two radio programs. He is the co-founder of string field theory (a branch of string theory), and continues Einstein’s search to unite the four fundamental forces of nature into one unified theory. He holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics and a joint appointment at City College of New York and the Graduate Center of C.U.N.Y. He is also a visiting professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.
Kaku launched his Big Think blog, "Dr. Kaku's Universe," in March 2010.
We are all aware that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful machine on planet earth and not yet operating at its full capacity. Since 2008, scientists at the CERN physics lab have slowing been increasing the intensity of the particle beams, with each time seeming to break its previous record. It was but a few days ago that the LHC lit up the headlines once again for breaking a world record of beam intensity previously achieved by Fermi's Tevatron in Batavia, Ill. In 2010, the Fermi Tevatron set the record for a beam intensity of 4.024 x 1032cm-2s-1 and the LHC recently broke that record on April 22nd at around midnight Geneva time by reaching a luminosity of 4.67 x 1032cm-2s-1. As a result of these high energy collisions, billions of points of data are being crunched and is a tremendous success for the CERN physics lab.
As the intensity of the beams is increased, the hopes of scientists around the world is also being increased. There are hopes that the machine will finally be able to shed a bit of light on the questions humans have been asking themselves for thousands of years, including the very secret of why we even have a universe to begin with. Also, we might finally be able to answer some of the bizarre questions usually reserved for philosophers and theologians such as the existence of parallel universes and if some of those allow for time travel.
The two things you’ve probably been hearing about the most since the LHC had its first collision is the possibility for creating dark matter and the discovery for the elusive Higgs Boson (God Particle). With the thousands of subatomic particles that make up a jigsaw puzzle, it’s always had one missing piece in the center that we have yet been able to discover and that’s the Higgs Boson. Physics doesn't really have any answers to explain where mass comes from or why matter has mass in the first place. The discovery of it will not only complete the Standard Model as it exists today but will literally shake the very foundation of our understanding of the Universe we live in.
Last week, a leaked internal memo from four scientists at the LHC hit the Internet, stating that the hunt for the elusive Higgs may be over. The obvious power to share information allowed the memo to spread like wild fire. Such statements included “the first definitive observation of physics beyond the standard model” and suggested that the ATLAS detector may have picked up a signature that was consistent with what scientists anticipate or expect the Higgs would produce.
The memo could, of course, be a hoax and some are saying that the memo is as elusive as the particle itself. The memo could also be speaking about an entirely unexpected particle in the arsenal and not be about the Higgs at all. To be sure, we will have to wait for an official statement from CERN.
(Or, the memo could be real, but the data could have large errors in them, so the particle disappears when the data is examined more carefully. So it is too early to bring out the champagne bottles.)
The Daily, an iPad news publication startup recently interviewed me about how the discovery of ’The God Particle’ is going to open the floodgates for a whole new branch of theoretical physics. The interview also touches a bit on how locating the Higgs could move science toward the development of the long-sought Theory of Everything. The Daily recently posted a large portion of the interview which also includes a video clip that can be viewed below.
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