Why the Higgs Boson Is Not "The God Particle"
While today's announcement of the Higgs' discovery is important, we should not elevate it to deity-status, says Dr. Dave Goldberg, professor of physics at Drexel University. It's just a particle.
What's the Latest Development?
Now that scientists believe they have found the elusive Higgs boson, a particle that was essential to completing our understanding of the Universe, we can begin to narrow down just what the Higgs particle is—and what it isn't. One thing it assuredly is not, says Dr. Dave Goldberg, professor of physics at Drexel University, is "The God Particle." For starters, the Higgs particle is a particle like any other. "It interacts with other particles, and those interactions take the form of changes in energy." And despite the Higgs' fame for giving mass to matter, it is not the only thing that confers mass. Einstein's famous E=mc^2, which equivocates mass with energy, is relevant here. Given the size of particles, most solid things are empty space, but the energy exchanged between supercharged atoms creates mass. In fact, almost none of your mass comes from the Higgs.
What's the Big Idea?
While the Higgs discovery tells us we're on the right track with the Standard Model, there are a host of observable phenomena which the Higgs tells us nothing about. Neither it nor the Standard Model explain how gravity works, nor account for dark matter (23% of the Universe) or the presence of dark energy (73% of the Universe). The Higgs is an important discovery but we should not elevate it to deity-status.
Photo credit: CERN
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It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.
In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.
Image from the study.
As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.
Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.
"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.
It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.
Image by authors of the study.
Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.
The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.
“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."
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