Statistical fluke or the last puzzle piece? Scientists have found evidence for the elusive “God Particle,” the Higgs boson.
Below is a Top 10 list of remarks that might be heard at the discovery of the Higgs boson, and please add your own in the comments! But how about a bit of background first?
What is a “boson” anyway? Sounds like a crewman on a sailing vessel, “The First Boson.” Or something to catch dinosaurs. “Pterodactyl’s loose. Better get the Boson.”
Turns out it’s neither of those things. Nope. The boson is a particle – a very special particle – that interacts with a field – a very special field – that imparts mass to, well, everything. (More on that in a second.)
Mass. We’ve all got it. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get rid of some of it. Maybe I can shed a few bosons instead of doing that extra mile on the treadmill. You see, without the Higgs boson, particles have no mass.
I used to think “mass” meant “weight,” but it doesn’t, not exactly. Mass is something’s resistance to being moved. Ironic how a similar resistance contributed to my New Year’s resolution…
Think about this: spaceship. Outer space. Vacuum. Nothing to stop a big spaceship from moving just as freely through space as a small one. Why then does the big spaceship need big engines to move just as much as a small spaceship would with small engines? Simple: it has more mass, more resistance to being moved.
But resistance to what? Nothing’s out there, so where’s this resistance coming from?
Enter the “God Particle” – without it, everything is massless. I’m not really sure why it’s called the God particle except that without it, the universe as we know it wouldn’t exist (no mass) so I guess it has something to do with that. The term was coined in Leon Lederman’s book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?
Anyway, scientists at CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire; en Anglais: European Council for Nuclear Research) think they’ve found evidence of the God Particle, but won’t know for sure until they do further testing. They say that their current evidence may be a statistical fluke (lots of data, not enough certainty in it yet), so they need to run more tests.
I say, go for it. Then let’s figure out a way to get rid of it so that I can fit into my pants from last year.
Oh, and about that field, aptly named the Higgs field (both of which named after physicist Peter Higgs)… Well, apparently at the time of the Big Bang, particles were without mass, but after a little bit of cooling, the Higgs boson formed, and with it a pervasive field of something (verdict is still out – some say energy, some say molasses…) that extends throughout the cosmos, and the boson interacts with it.
The field is everywhere, permeates everything. And if a particle has the Higgs boson, then it interacts with the field and has mass. The more a particle interacts, the more mass it has.
A little green man once described something similar quite well…
But I digress.
Listed below are the top ten things overheard at CERN when they found evidence for the Higgs boson…well, they might have been overheard. I’ve linked each one to a reference, because they really are funny, but probably not if you don’t know their context.
(Trust me, they’re great. I promise.)
Enjoy. And good luck, CERN scientists. Keep looking. In the words of Agent Mulder, “The truth is out there.”
Top 10 Remarks Overheard at CERN When the Higgs Boson, aka. “The God Particle,” was Discovered
10. “Oh my God…particle.” (link)
9. “Tastes like treacle.” (link)
8. “We’re gonna need a bigger detector.” (link)
7. Old Scientist: “We’ve just discovered the Higgs boson.” Young Scientist: “Well, I guess that does it for physics. We found the last fundamental particle.” Old Scientist: “Hmmm…We think we discovered the Higgs boson, but we’ll need much more research to be sure.” (link)
6. “Looks like God finally rolled a 7.” (link)
5. “It’s not the size of the particle that matters, only its interaction with the Higgs field.” (link)
4. Reporters: “You’ve just discovered the God particle! What are you going to do next?” Geeky Labcoats: “We’re going to Euro-Disney!” (link)
3. “Elementary, my dear particle.” (link)
2. “Maybe now they’ll get off our backs about those neutrinos.” (link)
And the Number 1 thing overheard at the discovery of the Higgs boson…
1. “Yeah, but what’s that made of?” (link)
What did I forget? What else might you hear if you were a fly on the wall at CERN? Please feel free to add some more in the comments below!