Monday, 8 October 2012


NB - The Higgs boson does not create mass - at least not very much mass. It only affects 5% of particles - says CERN. HIGGS BOSON DIES


My most visited blogs are about the Higgs Boson and Physics.  Many readers must share my amateur, non-mathematical-language interest in the science and physics of the Higgs Boson.

Since the Higgs Boson was “found” in July 2012 in the 27km (17 mile) circumference Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Geneva, by firing protons (large hadrons) at each other to smash them to bits, other “atom smashers” have been attempting to reproduce the results and so confirm that the Higgs Boson does indeed exist and is a fundamental part of the atom and that they collectively form the Higgs Field, which we amateurs might equate to the Victorian’s Aether, the basic stuff that forms matter and objects (phenomena) in the Universe.

How do they, the scientists at CERN, find a Higgs Boson?

Computer graphic of an atom of Helium.
The nucleus of Helium contains two protons
(red)  and two neutrons (blue).
An electron cloud surrounds the nucleus,
which in Helium contains two electrons
orbiting in a single energy level.
Sub-atomic, particle or quantum physics, the study of the exceedingly small, cannot yet “see” an atom. There are two recent (2012) photographs that are the first ever visuals using the visible light range – the first is an atom, the second is the shadow of a Ytterbium atom (atomic number 70 on the Periodic Table).  Atoms have been imaged before, using other wavelengths of the light or electromagnetic spectrum to generate computer images.  These extraordinary pictures are necessarily fuzzy. We are unlikely to be able to photograph any subatomic particles because the available light wavelengths are too large and too disruptive of the particles to give us usable images.

Particles such as the Higgs are inferred from the particle trails seen (and photographed) in the gas or liquid in the collision (originally "cloud") chamber, where the accelerated Protons meet head-on and break apart. What science sees are the impact trails of the particles. Through a hundred years of delving deep into the atom, science can recognise and have named many of the particles, their trails, recombinations, secondary collisions and outcomes. In the previous two centuries – from alchemy to chemistry to Dmitri Mendeleev’s neat Periodic Table of the elements, science came to know different atoms from observing their interactions in our macroscopic human sized world. The most accurate understanding and identification, however, comes from our ever growing knowledge and use of electro-magnetism and its radio signature wavelengths. These waves and assumed particles (Wavicles) come only in standard units, first measured by Max Planck in 1901 studying black-body-radiation (heating and cooling of lumps of  metal) who found the energy changed or radiated  not in smooth gradients but in jumps or steps, now called Quanta; the Quantum/s in particle physics.  


The tiny jumps, or Quanta, of electrons inside atoms radiate photons and electrons as particles and waves that we harness for our radio, TV and mobile phone signals – among many other uses. Without Max Planck studying his cast iron stove 112 years ago, we would not have our cell-phones or TV. The sub-microscopic quantum world is real.  To communicate the absolute precision of this realm, science prefers to talk in Mathematical-Language rather than in the less exact English-Language (or French, German, Chinese etc).

Every particle of the atom broadcasts its own electro-magnetic signal. Every atom has a unique radio signature. Every molecule has its own radio signature. And so, indeed, does every human being. Every phenomena (thing/ object) in the Universe, thus broadcasts its presence as a boundless field of waves; waves that propagate in recognisable patterns. Our understanding of the interior of atoms largely relies on these particle broadcasts. Our understanding is incomplete – but we do know for example that the Quarks (rhyme with “corks) that make Protons and Neutrons in the nucleus of an atom fail to account for 80% or so of the energy /mass of the Protons.  We know that galaxies like the Milky Way lack 80% to 90% of the gravity (material) to hold them together. Most of the micro and macro Universe is missing …from our models. So enter, stage left, the Higgs Boson.

National Geographic
The Quantum radio-electro-magnetic jigsaw that physicists have assembled or modelled is translated in Mathematical-Language into the unique Wavicles of each particle. By a process of mathematical elimination, Professor Peter Higgs calculated, more decades ago than he cares to recall, that a major missing atomic piece is his Boson.

My other hyperlinked articles explain The Higg’s signature energy/ mass/ weight (in both GeVs and Grams)* and The Higgs also HAS to be simultaneously thought of as the fundamental FIELD that enables pure energy (light) to gain mass and give rise to objects in the electro-magnetic spectrum.

To physically find the Higgs sub-atomic particle, the LHC cyclotron (it cycles or goes round and round) at CERN, has to detect large numbers of Higgs among the collision debris (in fact the scientists detect the consequences or after-effects of instantly created and disintegrated Higgs - not the Higgs itself).  The collisions have to make as much energy as the universal energy, the original field of light, did just after the Big-Bang; to recreate the fundamental point and temperatures when matter (Higgs Bosons) precipitated from the allegedly original searing hot energy field that poured out of the primordial "White Hole" at the beginning of space-time.

A single Higgs Boson has 134 times the mass /energy of a Proton so it takes that many Protons to collide to match the energy signature of one Higgs. As the Higgs instantly decays into other particles, the observers have to repeat the experiment many times to ensure that the radiating signal they briefly detected was from a Higgs Boson. Nobody ever said it would be easy.

The world awaits confirmation that CERN has found this important piece of the jigsaw.

There are also many other major mysteries to solve.

* Mass and energy are interchangeable, as in E=MC2

Science further reading


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