Monday, 15 October 2012


 Death of the Higgs
SADLY:- The HIGGS does not confer mass, says CERN; at least not much mass "approximately a fingernail of mass compared to the whole human body"



If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.
Albert Einstein

'oops - Atoms in your body correction; a trillion is 1,000 billion, I meant a billon-billion and then another billion.

I have read twenty or so texts and written six or seven paragraphs about The Higgs Boson and Higgs Field. Could I explain them to my two bright grandchildren aged 12 and 10 years old?
ABC – Professor Peter Higgs is an Englishman who lives in Yorkshire. About 40 years ago he and a host of scientists worked out that one day science would find a “missing” fundamental “field” and particle that would explain the mass (weight) of atoms. That day may have come in July 2012.  
“A” is for ATOM – that since the classical Greeks, 2,500 years ago, was thought to be the smallest possible thing in the world. An atom was defined as a tiny unbreakable “pebble”, which in great numbers make the world and the universe. According to Jefferson Lab, an average 70 Kg person, that's about 150 lbs, will have approximately 7*10 to the 27th atoms in their body. That's 7 followed by 27 zeros (7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).  
So in English: You are made of Seven-Billion-Billion-Billion atoms. Each atom is just 10-10 metres wide, 0.000,000,000,01 metres, or a ball Ten-Billionths of a metre wide. A metre is about 3 feet long – Americans misspell it ‘meter’. All these atoms cooperate to make you the shape you are and what you are; how they coordinate is a mystery.
“B” is for BOSON: Lord Rutherford an English Baron from New Zealand with a large moustache, in 1915 discovered the atom was not the smallest thing; it was made of even smaller parts. Since 1915, scientists have found hundreds of different ‘sub-atomic’ particles that are classed into 3 main “families”; all are either inside, or are revolving round, the centre or nucleus.
The nucleus is made of (heavy) protons and neutrons. The outer satellites are almost weightless electrons, which cause electricity and magnetism. Each of the 120 or so different types of atom listed in Mendeleev’s Periodic Table - Iron, Carbon, Oxygen etc - have different numbers of electrons, protons and neutrons.
Most of the particles change into each other (“decay”) all the time and have very, very short ‘lives’ of milliseconds.
BOSONS – are one of the three main “families” of particles which include massless photons – which “carry” light from one place to another. Bosons include the Graviton which “carries” gravity; though it has not been found and gravity remains a mystery. It seems that Bosons themselves are massless but they transmit mass. Bosons have a spin of 1 - the Higgs has a spin of zero. The calculations and assumptions and “spin” that predict The Higgs Boson are beyond the comprehension of 99.99% of ordinarily intelligent people. To join in, inherit the mathematic gene and start aged ten or so.  
C is for CERN: The Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire designed a 17 mile long tunnel at Geneva, Switzerland in 1952, in a perfect circle, big enough to run buses through; equipped it with particle accelerators and huge magnets to guide the particles, and installed photographic chambers where the speeding particles collide, or crash into each other – at almost light-speed, the universal limit of speed 300,000 kilometres per second. The latest rebuild of this very costly complicated cyclotron equipment is designed to isolate PROTONS from the nucleus (centre) of atoms, usually Helium Atoms, and accelerate trillions of them in opposite directions and crash them into each other. Protons are in the HADRON family of sub-atomic particles, so the big piece of kit at CERN is called the Large (because it is big) Hadron Collider - LHC.
As the protons, at millions of crashes per second, collide they split and scatter into hundreds of very short lived particles, demonstrating that they are NOT elementary particles; but are composite particles, made from other smaller particles (n.b. size is misleading because a dense smaller particle can be have far more MASS than a larger “weightless” particle – think of: “which is heavier; a ton of lead or a ton of feathers?”). With a bit of faith, luck and a lot of skill, one of the bits exploded from the crashed protons will be The Higgs Boson.
It, The Higgs, is 134 times heavier than a proton and only survives for one-hundred-and-fifty-six-thousand-billion-billionths of a second before it sadly “decays” into, usually, two photons; but its brief existence warms the hearts and souls of the scientists and brings smiles to their faces.
F is for FIELD: What matters more than the vanished Higgs particle is The Higgs Field. All particles, in fact all things that exist (stand-out), continually broadcast their existence in light and radio waves. This is how we can see distant stars, in the visible light range, and in invisible light such as Infra-Red, X-Rays and at all frequencies. All things broadcast electromagnetically (light), including sub-atomic particles. The broadcasts travel or propagate at the speed of light in waves, the waves have no mass, they are weightless, and the spheres they create or travel through are “fields”.
My interpretation of what Professor Peter Higgs and pals are looking for, an interpretation they may well disagree with and so will explain to us further, is the magic moment, conditions, times and places when and where such energy “fields” condense into matter – in this case into fundamental or elementary sub-atomic particles that are the building blocks, the bricks, of all things. The Higgs Field and its carrier particle may be the process whereby straw is spun into gold.  
Is that clear? Will children understand it? Questions on a postcard please.
More boson blogs later – another time.



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