What Put the Bang in the Big Bang?

Michio Kaku: A few months ago the headlines were dominated by the fact that physicists think they found the Higgs boson.  Well, the media said, this is a great discovery, but what do you mean you think you found the Higgs boson?  Well, to within five standard deviations, yes, we think we found the Higgs boson.  And the media said, what do you mean by that?  

Well I would have answered the question differently.  I would have said, "With 99.9999% confidence, we have bagged the Higgs boson.  If you are an odds maker in Las Vegas, and the bets are that you are 99.9999% confident that you have it, then yes, you have it."

So experimental data is not ironclad.  You have a bell-shaped curve of information, a bell-shaped curve where the data indicates that you're sitting right here on the top of the bell-shaped curve, but as you go away from the bell-shaped curve, you undergo one standard deviation, two standard deviations, three standard deviations . . . and here we have five standard deviations of proof.  So in physics we use that as the gold standard: if you can say you found something within five standard deviations, then it means that, within 99.9999% accuracy, you have actually found it.  Most people would say, of course you have found it.

The Higgs boson is important not just because it gives particles mass.  That's how the media played it, and people say, well, so what; ten billion dollars for another god darn subatomic particle that gives us mass; what's the big deal; why call it the God particle; why say that it's one of the great achievements of modern science?  Well, you have to understand something: we physicists squirm when we hear "God particle," but, you see, there is some truth to the name "the God particle" because the Bible says that God set the universe into motion.  That's what God did in Genesis, chapter one, verse one.  However, we physicists say that the universe was created in a big bang 13.7 billion years ago.  But then the question is, why did it bang?  What set off the bang?  We don't know.  It's a big mystery.  Well, the answer is a Higgs-like boson set off the Big Bang.  It put the bang in the Big Bang.

See, the purpose of Higgs bosons—and there is more than one—the purpose of the Higgs boson is to break a symmetry.  And when you break symmetries like the symmetry of the universe, then you get big bangs.  So what is the Higgs boson?  The Higgs boson is a fuse.  It's a match.  It's the spark that set off the Big Bang.  It put the bang in the Big Bang.  

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

What is the Higgs boson? Michio Kaku describes the Higgs boson as a fuse. "It's a match. It's the spark that set off the Big Bang. It put the bang in the Big Bang."

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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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."

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

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  • 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.