July 5, 2012

"Nobody can explain to you what the Higgs boson is, because if they try..."

"... they'll say things like: The Higgs boson is the particle that imparts mass to the other particles."
And if you're thinking clearly you'll say: Wait, what does that mean? You mean if the Higgs boson disappeared, then the other particles would exist but wouldn't have mass? So how could they be particles at all--I mean, how could they be particles in the sense that I think of "particles"?
What's your position on the Higgs boson?


  
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119 comments:

sydney said...

50/50 between trying to understand and somewhat succeeding and trying to understand and not succeeding. At least we're trying!

ndspinelli said...

Whenever I pass a new skyscraper being built I always say to myself, "Somebody knows a lot of shit to do this." Same here.

I greatly respect science and knowledge, but I'm just a blue collar guy who doesn't have a fucking clue what this means.
I guess that's why I scored much higher on the verbal than the math in my SAT.

Conserve Liberty said...

I'm just trying to understand whether I need to understand before I invest the time and energy in re-learning / supplementing my learning enough in physics to be conversationally proficient, which would be my goal.

Lyssa said...

I tried to read an article on Slate purporting to explain why it was so important, but found it unreadable. My husband, who watches those physics type shows on Discovery and is completely into this sort of thing, is very excited about it, though.

Part of my capcha is "42", which seems so apt for this topic (to the extent to which I understand what the topic is here).

rhhardin said...

The Higgs Bosom is responsible for women.

Lauderdale Vet said...

Here's an easier to digest version of the Higgs Bosun

deborah said...

'general, spiritual,' fur shure.

Dr Weevil said...

With his 50/50 understanding/not understanding, sydney must have come down with a bad case of Schrödinger's Brain.

Tom Spaulding said...

Does this particle make my Mass look big?

Ann Althouse said...

I don't know the difference between a quark and a bosun and a snark and a boojum.

smitty1e said...

It's all in this vintage photo.

sydney said...

Lauderdale Vet,
That was is an excellent cartoon. Thanks for linking.

I have a hard time comprehending physics, but I am getting better. My husband is a physicist and three of my children are physics majors in college. I am a little lost at our dinner table.

I've been reading a Briefer History of Time - a reworked version of the Hawkings book that is dumbed down for people like me. Highly recommend it as an introduction to physics.

Gabriel Hanna said...

All the particles of matter have some kind of property that lets them behave in different ways. These properties are carried by other particles. For example, photons are the particle that give rise to the electric charges of particles. And Higgs bosons would be the particle that is responsible for giving other particles its mass in the same way that photons are responsible for charge.

Why does anything have what we call "mass"? Why do material things resist being accelerated by forces? That's the question that the Higgs boson intends to answer.

If it is what is supposed to be, asking what would happen to mass if it disappeared is literally contradictory, since mass would not be a property independent of the Higgs boson.

Smilin' Jack said...

You mean if the Higgs boson disappeared, then the other particles would exist but wouldn't have mass? So how could they be particles at all--I mean, how could they be particles in the sense that I think of "particles"?

Somebody flunked high school physics. Photons are massless particles, and have been well known for over a century.

dbp said...

I would say, "If The Higgs boson is the particle that imparts mass to the other particles and we already know that other particles have mass, why did we waste billions of dollars to find out that this "particle" exists?"

Paul Zrimsek said...

Triangle Man can still take both Particle Man and Boson Man at one time.

Gabriel Hanna said...

One of the wisest things ever said to me in my physics education was, "You don't ever really understand physics, you just get used to it". I was told this when I was bothered by the quantum nature of particles.

That's not really the whole story, because as you get used to it you can learn to understand it. But you first you have to unlearn many things you think you know.

The biggest challenge of teaching introductory physics is not that students don't know anything about physics. It's that they know a great deal of WRONG physics, which they have constructed for themselves from their experiences of the physical world over their lifetime. Once you have mastered physics it is very difficult to remember the misconceptions you once had, since they don't make sense any more.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@dpb:I would say, "If The Higgs boson is the particle that imparts mass to the other particles and we already know that other particles have mass, why did we waste billions of dollars to find out that this "particle" exists?"

Yeah, there is clearly no value in understanding the way the universe works, dpb said, typing out his words on a machine that could never have been designed without an understanding of quantum particles, words that are transmitted to others that could never have been done without an understanding of how photons work.

If the particle exists, physics is on the right track. If it can't be found, physics is on the wrong track and needs to be rethought. No value in that, I guess.

Methadras said...

Imagine higgs as a field that permeates everything, like gravity. It's everywhere. Any particle that comes into existence has to pass through it. Some are more influenced than others by it. Those that are greatly influenced by it are heavier. The idea now is, are their multiple ways to get to a higgs?

yoobee said...

I think the Verge link below has some pretty good (high-level) discussion of the topic, for those who are interested.

http://www.theverge.com/2012/7/5/3138469/what-is-higgs-boson-videos

Synova said...

I wanted an option of "I sort of understand, but I'm not breaking my brain on trying to understand it better." A combination of #2 and #5.

As for Wright. I suppose he makes people who don't understand it feel better, but what's the point of that? Where does the feeling bad come into it? He's not a scientist, and certainly not a physicist, and even among those, how many work at that level?

I don't have the conceptual space for needing to feel better for not understanding it. I don't expect to, so where is the problem?

OTOH, my brain doesn't cramp at the thought of a field creating mass or being associated with a particle or a particle not being a particle, etc.

The conclusion that the human brain isn't meant to understand anything but the crudest macroscopic truths and so we ought to be *humble* seems... like an excuse.

Dante said...

Mass-less particles like photons bother you? How about this. The whole universe came from, well nothing, according to one theory. Another theory is it came from some being who came from, well who knows.

Or, what about that conscious you think you've got going. Like the universe's origin, you have three choices:

It comes about all at once for who knows what reason
It's in everything (use the force)
Or, it doesn't actually exist.

traditionalguy said...

Mass is stuff. What we call the world. It seems to be a process that is passing us by as our linear time sees the world as real or unreal.

There are also red, green or blue colored quarks and muons on the Creator Artist's palette for use in His intelligent designs of atoms' nucleus.


But a Higgs bosun is like a field of "particles" in space that binds some of the other particles to slow them down which then makes them seem like they have a heavy mass, or not binds as strongly to others to make them seem like they have a lesser mass.

Darwin was unavailable for comment.

Patrick said...

The boson itself doesn't do much, but with all of the other Higgs bosons, creates a field. Without that field, other particles move about with impunity and remain mass-less. The field creates a "drag" effect, so that the particles experience resistance, which is defined as "mass." If there were no Higgs field, there would be no mass.

Marshal said...

Next option: It's great that some people are throughly engaged with discovery, but it's a virtual certainty much of what they claim will turn out to be materially wrong in ways we won't even understand for several decades, so the triumphalism is completely misplaced.
_________________________


Oh, and the Atlantic sucks with McArdle gone, Fallows claiming the Democratic process is a coup if it doesn't result in greater leftism, and Coates claiming both (a) that Al Gore's restraint after the 2000 election was commendable and (b) that a 1/2 second grainy security tape from 30 yards away proved Zimmerman guilty because there was no visible damage.

Did the Onion take over and only tell McCardle?

Bryan C said...

"Photons are massless particles, and have been well known for over a century."

Gabriel's physics may be a more recent revision. The massless nature of photons is an inference based on how they behave, and on our current understanding of physical laws. The existence of the Higgs Boson would change that understanding and may require us to re-evaluate our conclusions.

Which is why science is never really "known". At best it's just a working approximation.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Synova:The conclusion that the human brain isn't meant to understand anything but the crudest macroscopic truths and so we ought to be *humble* seems... like an excuse.

It can be understood, at the expense of a great deal of effort and with the help of mathematics, which gives us the appropriate language for the problem.

It can be restated in English, but then you only get a statement of the results, and not the process of reasoning that justified them. And that statement may not be convincing.

One hurdle for students who first hear of relativity is that they think this is just an artifact of how we measure time, and not the nature of time itself. Following the mathematical reasoning is what makes it convincing.

bagoh20 said...

The correct answer is that it's the nerd equivalent of the Venus Butterfly. Prove me wrong.

Mr. D said...

I thought Higgs Boson was an early comic strip character who was always attempting to avoid getting hit in the head with a rolling pin by some nasty woman yelling “Insect!” I might be mistaken.

Patrick said...

So how could they be particles at all--I mean, how could they be particles in the sense that I think of "particles"?

Exactly. They are not "particles" in the sense that you think of "particles." They are probably closer to different forms of energy than particles like normal people think of when they hear the word "particles." Those subatomic thingamabobs are some pretty weird shit.

Fred said...

At least Wright understands that it is the Higgs Field which is important, and the Higgs particle is a manifestation of a ripple, the smallest possible ripple since this is a quantum field, in the Higgs Field. It turns out to be very hard to make a ripple in the Higgs Field. It takes a lot of energy, which is why we need the LHC to smash things together a almost the speed of light. It is hard to observe the wave/particle, because in a very short time the wave's energy disturbes other fields (which creates other particles) and the ripple in the Higgs Field vanishes. Those other ripples do survive and move through detectors where we can see them, and if the right kinds of ripples (or particles) are seen, we infer the earlier presence of a ripple in the Higgs Field, and so we know the Higgs Field exists!

The Higgs Field is present everywhere, and unlike other fields, has a nonzero value in empty space. Particles that interact with, or 'feel', the Higgs Field are affected by it everywhere! The interaction produces the property we call mass, just as interaction with the Electric Field produces the property we call charge. Particles that do not interact with the Electric Field have no charge, and particles that do not interact with the Higgs Field have no mass.

We know almost nothing about the Higgs Field except it must have a nonzero value everywhere, and now we know that it exists. The interesting part will be learning more about the Higgs Field and maybe one day how to engineer things which use the Higgs Field.

DADvocate said...

I thought Higgs boson was that guy who took care of the place Magnum P.I. lived.

bagoh20 said...

Just ask the U.N. what the scientific consensus is. That's the only valid truth.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Bryan:Gabriel's physics may be a more recent revision.

I didn't say that, but I agree with this:

The massless nature of photons is an inference based on how they behave, and on our current understanding of physical laws.


The existence of the Higgs Boson would change that understanding and may require us to re-evaluate our conclusions.

Change that to "may" and I'm with you.

Which is why science is never really "known". At best it's just a working approximation.

Which is like saying that the Mona Lisa is at best an interesting arrangement of organic pigments on cloth.

james said...

Little mistake here:
"For example, photons are the particle that give rise to the electric charges of particles."

Photons couple to the charges of charged particles and produce the electric and magnetic fields we know and love--as well as light. You could argue that charges and photons arise within the context of the field theory, but that's a different matter. So to speak.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@james:Photons couple to the charges of charged particles and produce the electric and magnetic fields we know and love

That might be a better way to put it.

bagoh20 said...

Well, both science and the Mona Lisa have been around for a few hundred years, and the chubby chick is still pretty much a chubby chick, while science has more of a Kardashian vibe going.

lemondog said...

Under government protection located in the Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks

Synova said...

Yoobee's link was a good one.

Thanks.

MadisonMan said...

My daughter knows the granddaughter of the guy at Michigan who won the bet with Hawkins over the discovery of the Higgs particle.

It's a small world.

Palladian said...

Which is like saying that the Mona Lisa is at best an interesting arrangement of organic pigments on cloth.

The "Mona Lisa" is painted on a poplar wood panel, and many of the pigments used to make the paint are inorganic compounds.

Bob Ellison said...

With Gilligan,
The Skipper, too,
The Higgs Bo'sun,
And his wife.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Palladian: Good point, so consider my statement suitably modified.

It's merely a collection of colors on wood.

Wally Kalbacken said...

I have one in the garage up at the house near Gill's Rock. It's on blocks and hasn't been run in years. But it's clean, real clean. If that's what you're looking for.

chickelit said...

Not to be a Bohr, but "it is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we say about Nature."

EDH said...

I always thought it had something to do with how Shemp Howard mispronounced Boston.

No? Well, didn't she play the high-strung wife of the philandering "Pizza Man" on Hill Street Blues?

Tibore said...

I don't know if this'll help anyone, but I'll put it out there anyway:

For the average person, it's sometimes helpful to not worry about how nonsensical elementary particles are when described in isolation, but rather to understand that they're part of an overall puzzle, and that the particles are only meaningful when they're considered in context with the other fields or particles in the standard model. Fermions add up to matter, bosons add up to forces, and the Higgs boson ends up being the components of the "Higgs field" that makes something have mass. If something has mass, it's affected by the Higgs field and therefore interacts somehow with the Higgs boson. The specific "hows" and "whys" are the province of physicists who are trying to understand things at a deep level, but the fact that those particles either add up to either eventually being solid matter, some sort of force, or makes things have mass or not is deep enough for me. Any further and my innumeracy in higher math ends up hampering me.

And as an aside: Yeah, obviously I voted for #3: I understand it in a general, spiritual way, but no deeper, and I'm happy where I'm at. That poll choice was oddly on target in my case. :D

Anyway, thinking about it that way helps me cope most of the time. And when it doesn't, normally doing Google searches for "(topic of interest) for dummies" helps a lot. In this case, "Higgs boson for dummies" turned up some excellent links. :)

Bob Ellison said...

Wally, you made me spill Coke Zero on my shirt.

Dante, your comments remind me of a line in a Larry Niven novel (quoting from memory): "The first gods almost certainly created themselves. Later gods weren't that powerful..."

chickelit said...

james said...

Photons couple to the charges of charged particles and produce the electric and magnetic fields we know and love--as well as light.

That sounds vaguely erotic. Photons also knock up electrons and then leave the seen.

dbp said...

I am sure it would be edifying, as well as entertaining to have Mr. Gabriel Hanna said take us all through the steps whereby smashing atoms led to flat screen displays and microciruitry.

Sure, it is nice to find out a "particle" which has been used for lots of calculations and predictions does actually exist--though there must have been lots of other evidence for it or else we wouldn't have spent billions on an accelerator.

The result will be interesting--mostly to physists, who will find that they need a machine ten times more powerful to find the next "god" particle.

Patrick said...

so do they shut the LHC down now, or what?

chickelit said...

When I was a kid in Middleton, my mom used to point to a building off to the right heading north on highway 12 and say "that's an atom smasher." I forgot to ask her about that when I was back. Are there any locals around here who know what she might have been referring to back in the 1960's?

chickelit said...

Any further and my innumeracy in higher math ends up hampering me.

Here's another Bohrdom: "Never express yourself more clearly than you are able to think."

mtrobertsattorney said...

I guess if I knew where Higgs gets that mass from that he gives away, I might understand it.

traditionalguy said...

An early written description of the Higgs bosun field effect appears in Colossians 1:17 that describes the Eternal Christ (who is God) saying, "He is before all things and in him all things hold together."

Unknown said...

dbp: I am sure it would be edifying, as well as entertaining to have Mr. Gabriel Hanna said take us all through the steps whereby smashing atoms led to flat screen displays and microciruitry.

The fact that you can't imagine the inferential chain involved doesn't mean the inferential chain doesn't exist.

chickelit said...

traditionalguy said...
An early written description of the Higgs bosun field effect appears in Colossians 1:17 that describes the Eternal Christ (who is God) saying, 'He is before all things and in him all things hold together.'

So that's what the "H" stands for in His middle name!

Original Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patrick said...

urinort
When I was a kid in Middleton, my mom used to point to a building off to the right heading north on highway 12 and say "that's an atom smasher." I forgot to ask her about that when I was back. Are there any locals around here who know what she might have been referring to back in the 1960's?

Yeah, the atom smasher. That was where they smashed atoms. They'd show up for work with their hammers, smash atoms all day on the line, maybe go get a beer after work. Tough bunch they were, and they always split the atoms clean.

lemondog said...

The Bates Linear Accelerator Center is a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Laboratory for Nuclear Science (LNS). Located in Middleton MA

Atom Smasher.

Coketown said...

I don't care. I know I'm supposed to care, but I don't care. And yes, I'm aware of the dangers of feeling perfectly sheepish when someone mentions, in casual conversation, something about the Standard Model (because that sort of thing happens all the time) and I say, "The damn thing isn't even complete, by Jove!" and they have to correct me and say, "Au contraire--for the Higgs booooson has been identified!" *guffaw*

I like trivia very much, mind. I find stuffing my noodle with useless horseshit quite edifying. But I think an inch-deep-mile-wide understanding of particle physics is enough for anyone to get by. I mean, great, someone's close to identifying the Higgs boson. And awesome, you're vaguely aware of its importance. But if you think I'm going to sit around for a 48-minute lecture on the Higgs boson's place in the Standard Model, you can go fuck yourself with the now defunct Fermilab particle smasher.

Synova said...

"So that's what the "H" stands for in His middle name!"

*choke*

chickelit said...

thanks lemondog, but I meant Middleton, WI. It was probably associated with the UW.

Harold said...

I read somewhere once that quarks and their properies were originally developed just as a bookkeeping scheme to keep track or properties of other particels.

Then, they turned out to be real.

Which convinces me that God, in addition to being a mathemetician, has a sense of humor, and created quarks for real after the bookkeeping was developed.

dbp said...

"The fact that you can't imagine the inferential chain involved doesn't mean the inferential chain doesn't exist."

Oh, I can imagine it. It would only be in my mind though: Historically there is no significant connection between atom smashers and electronics--Perhaps the state of art was pushed forward just to make sensitive detectors or some such thing.

AllieOop said...

I'm still struggling with the String Theory.

karrde said...

@dbp, I am sure it would be edifying, as well as entertaining to have Mr. Gabriel Hanna said take us all through the steps whereby smashing atoms led to flat screen displays and microciruitry.

Can't explain that bit very well...it depends on half-remembered stuff about how quantum-level effects produce the behavior of NPN and PNP junctions in transistors...or was it FETs?

Anyway, quantum theory (which was developed before atom-smashers were widely used, I think) explains why the semiconductor-junctions in transistors behave in certain ways.

For the stuff that I consider more important: there was an elegant logical-expression system developed by a 19th-Century professor. That system was used to develop electronic computing devices from large numbers of electronic switches.

Early computers used vacuum tubes as part of the switching apparatus. Transistors allowed computers to be built out of smaller components.

dbp said...

I am aware of the fact that quantum mechanics is essential to modern electronics. My point was that we didn't discover any of this using billion dollar boondoggles.

Synova said...

So, if the Higgs field and Higgs boson particles create drag, which we understand as mass, on anything other than a electron/photon, would an anti-Higgs pocket allow us to slip, massless, through the universe at the speed of light? Or would it just make us dissolve? Poof!

chickelit said...

Early computers used vacuum tubes as part of the switching apparatus. Transistors allowed computers to be built out of smaller components.

William=Shockley was once the Bardeen of great Bratain.

From Inwood said...

Does CJ Roberts think that a Higgs Boson can be taxed?

Does Eric Holder thing thata Higgs Boson should be eligible to vote?

From Inwood said...

do over:

Does CJ Roberts think that a Higgs boson should pay a tax?

Does AG Holder think that a Higgs boson should be eligible to vote?

Bob Ellison said...

Does your particle have mass?
Does it weigh less than your ass?
If it lacks a Higgs boson,
It has no mass to count upon.


There's a reason why I can't sell my poetry.

dbp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marty Keller said...

What, exactly, is a particle?

Michael K said...

the Higgs Boson is worth a mass.

Nicholas said...


Can't explain that bit very well...it depends on half-remembered stuff about how quantum-level effects produce the behavior of NPN and PNP junctions in transistors...or was it FETs?

You don't need quantum theory to explain bipolar transistors or FETs. FETs rely on electric fields affecting the charge carriers present in a doped semiconductor. Bipolar transistors work similarly to diodes in that the potential difference between the differently doped sections of the semiconductor affects the depletion zone width and thus controls current flow.

You may be thinking of flash memory, which uses insulated-gate FETs to store bits. These gates are charged and discharged by electrons which pass through the insulation barrier via quantum tunneling. Having said that, the ability of electrons to pass though insulators has been known for a while but I think it took quantum mechanics to explain exactly how and why it happns.

rhhardin said...

I wish they'd explain how an hourglass works.

chickelit said...

Bipolar transistors work similarly to diodes in that the potential difference between the differently doped sections of the semiconductor affects the depletion zone width and thus controls current flow.

Lithium ions probably help those electronic mood swings. :)

Protons, and to lesser extent deuterons are known to tunnel through thin barriers.

chickelit said...

rhhardin said...
I wish they'd explain how an hourglass works.

Didn't you watch "Days Of Our Lives"?

Original Mike said...

@chickelit: I suspect it was National Electrostatics Corporation, who made Van de Graaff generators. Here's a bio on Ray Herb, who was the principal.

chickelit said...

@rhhardin: the hourglass was actually an early quantum time piece. It was granular in nature, not at all continuous.

Paul said...

Isn't a Higgs boson part of a sailing ship?

Who comes up with those names???? You know like top, down, strange, and charm...

chickelit said...

@Original Mike linked: In 1965 Ray together with J. A. Ferry and T. Pauly founded the National Electrostatics Corporation, which was to manufacture pelletron electrostatic accelerators. The company was located in Middleton Wisconsin, a town adjacent to Madison.

I believe that's a bingo, Mike!--though I'm not sure about the appellation "atom smasher." That's what she called it anyway. Sorry I don't have a link for that, Allie. :)

Original Mike said...

To the general public in the 60's, everything was an "atom smasher".

Original Mike said...

I think we're all bosons on this bus.

Original Mike said...

The guy who got my professional career in physics started was a Ph.D. student under Ray Herb.

rhhardin said...

@chickelit The principle of an hourglass isn't clear.

If you had to simulate one on a computer, you don't know where to begin.

What governs the speed that stuff falls off the upper mass and drops through the hole.

And when one grain is gone, the stuff behind it has the same problem.

It's unfortunately not a fluid.

chickelit said...

It's unfortunately not a fluid.

How about modelling it as identical particles, with a uniform gravitational field and an assumed frictional component.

Are you saying that the "sinkhole" dynamics are a problem or the granular discontinuity?

rhhardin said...

@chickenlit
I don't think the grains are sliding. I think they're keystones for various structures that go unstable and fall, making other structures unstable.

AllieOop said...

Chickie, that's OK, I'm not a D yet ;) I'll take you at your word.

TANSTAAFL said...

Do Higgs bosuns have bosun mates?

JayC said...

"Phrosty the Photon"
(sung to "Frosty the Snowman")

Phrosty the Photon was quite a quantum sight,
With a zero mass and an endless life, and a speed approaching light.
Phrosty the Photon says he knows he's not that large,
But he said one day, if he comes this way, he will give us all a charge.


There must have been some magic in a physics lab one year,
For when they studied X-Ray beams, old Phrosty did appear,
Ooooooh...


Phrosty the Photon was quite a quantum sight,
With a zero mass and an endless life, and a speed approaching light.
Phrosty the Photon says he knows he's not that large,
But he said one day, if he comes this way, he will give us all a charge.


Thumpity, thump, thump, thumpity, thump, thump,
Moving fast as light.
Thumpity, thump, thump, thumpity, thump, thump,
Phrosty's out of sight.

chickelit said...

I think they're keystones for various structures that go unstable and fall, making other structures unstable.

OK. That sounds a bit like modeling a surface or edge process in physical chemistry, or the tail end of a Ponzi scheme in economics.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Sooner or later, with its endless positing of new subatomic entities, particle physics will go the way of Ptolemy's epicycles and epicycles on epicycles.

rhhardin said...

Epicycles are the Fourier coefficients of the elliptical orbit.

Big Mike said...

So 9% of the people who voted, think they understand the Higgs boson?

I think it's 1% who really understand and 8% who think they understand after the MSM tried to make it "accessible."

I'm in the "not my job" category, because it isn't.

Elliott A said...

The biggest problem is that these types of things make sense as mathematical constructs for the 1/10 of 1% who understand them. However, they cannot make sense with the human brain's abilities to paint a picture of the universe. It is clearly built on a different level.

chickelit said...

Elliott A said...
The biggest problem is that these types of things make sense as mathematical constructs for the 1/10 of 1% who understand them.

Isn't that inherently unfair? Shouldn't we be somehow taxing the brains of those at the very top--getting them to "pay forward" with satisfactory explanations for the rest of us?

traditionalguy said...

But I have listened to Morgan Freeman explain wormholes and dark matter until the cartoons on the screen seemed real.

These guys must be on to something. Only 72 years ago was no one thought thermo-nuclear devices were a practical advance in weapons. And now everyone wants one...for peaceful electrical power, of course...they must be planning to electrocute the six million Jews this time.

But on August 7, 1945 1,000,000 American Marines, Sailors and Soldiers and 4,000,000+ Japanese Soldiers and civilians woke up greatful that the Jew haters of their day ran Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein out of Germany.

chickelit said...

Tradguy, I doubt those Japanese civilians were grateful. And Oppenheimer did the heavy lifting at Los Alamos along with many others. Szilard conceived the chain reaction but was a persona non grata on the bomb project.

Craig said...

I thought the bosun was the mate on the ship who actually knows all the deckhands and what's supposed to be done to make sure everything is in shipshape.

mythusmage said...

What if it's a different mechanism that produces mass?

NotquiteunBuckley said...

Everything is seemingly spinning out of control, as J. Taranto tells me, so who gives a damn what some pasty Europeans are doing?

All we are is dust in the wind.

Dust. In. The. Wind!

NotquiteunBuckley said...

"Where's your Higg's boson now???" - Eddie G. Robinson

"Everywhere." - CERN

Methadras said...

For me, I'm more fascinated with where electrons come from than anything else. There really isn't to much on that.

Craig said...

Traditionally the bosun also administers floggings when needed using the cat'o'nine tails.

Bob Ellison said...

I, for one, am always up for a cheap epicycle reference. It's a dog whistle for us who think science is a tool of Satan.

Paul said...

Didn't Mary Jo give me a Higgs Bosom in the 11th grade? It was something like that cause I said, "Oh God"....

traditionalguy said...

@Chickelit...The Japanese knew what just happened to Japaneses civilians 2 months before at Okinawa Prefecture. They were very relieved that Emperor decided to let their lives count for something for the first time.

And you say Leo Szilard only thought of the solution to the problem, but others worked on it after him. OK. That's what Professor Higgs did. (Some Bose guy was also honored,) but Higgs pionerred the new theoretical physics that we are analogizing to Leo Szilard's world changing revelation and work to bring his revelation here and tell FDR about its potential as a weapon.

Craig said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7jBbCQwJ0g&feature=player_detailpage

The most famous bosun was Decatur's bosun, Reuben James. The navy named a ship after him, several in fact. One of them sank in WWII and the Kingston Trio immortalized it. That song inspired another song by Kenny Rogers.

Partridge said...

I went to wikipedia to try to understand it...and I read this (the first paragraph):

"In the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs boson is a hypothetical elementary particle. ... The Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, ... was designed with the primary purpose of finding and characterizing the Higgs boson."

Showing exactly why science is no more true than anything else. How can you "find" a "hypothetical particle"? In other words, how do you know if what you've found is the thing you hypothesized?

It's turtles all the way down.

tim in vermont said...

Stephan Wolfram, creator of Mathematica, writes about the Higgs.

This is the first time I understood why they call it the "God Particle."

Craig said...

The important thing to know about bosuns is that they come with a chair and a whistle.

Rusty said...

Gabriel Hanna said...
@Bryan:Gabriel's physics may be a more recent revision.

I didn't say that, but I agree with this:

The massless nature of photons is an inference based on how they behave, and on our current understanding of physical laws.


The existence of the Higgs Boson would change that understanding and may require us to re-evaluate our conclusions.

Change that to "may" and I'm with you.

Which is why science is never really "known". At best it's just a working approximation.

Which is like saying that the Mona Lisa is at best an interesting arrangement of organic pigments on cloth.



All I know is that there is a whackin' great ring thingy in the ground not far from where I live what was used for the acceleratin of various particles of matter. At great speed I might add. And now it ain't. 'cause some scientific geezer said it weren't doin the job of accountin for all the mass in the universe, or the lack thereof and so the science toffs built a bigger one in Europe or someplace. On account of the mass. or lack there of.
It's got buffalo in it.
The ring I mentioned.
grazin' I think.
Increasin' their mass.

gerry said...

But if you think I'm going to sit around for a 48-minute lecture on the Higgs boson's place in the Standard Model, you can go fuck yourself with the now defunct Fermilab particle smasher.

Wow. That's some particle pulverizing Higgs hostility you got there, partner.

I like my Higgs Bosun lite understanding myself. Hell, I'm still freaked out about how many neutrinos penetrate me every moment.

I feel so violated.

gerry said...

Anyway, quantum theory (which was developed before atom-smashers were widely used, I think) explains why the semiconductor-junctions in transistors behave in certain ways.

Were transistors developed as a result of really smart guys at Bell Labs thinking about how to apply that theory? It makes sense, especially when considering hole conduction making it all possible.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

I don't have enough faith in leading-edge physics to care much about Higgs-Boson. There may be something to it, but I'd rather spend my limited time looking very carefully at the to me beautiful parts of physics that are already done very well (like, electromagnetism) and see whether I can figure out how to do it even better.

About a decade ago I noticed there's an intuitive way of rewriting the potential energy density of the electromagnetic field if the speed of light squared times the cross product of the magnetic potential with the magnetic field minus the product of the scalar potential with the electric field has some sort of significance (e.g., if its time partial derivative is conserved when integrated globally). That's pretty much my only interest (or obsession) physics-wise that isn't just learning what is beautiful that is already known. But I've spent several hundreds of hours banging my horns at it to no effect, so, though I may spend a day or so each year revisiting it, I mostly just do mathematical logic, where I actually know I can make (slow but steady) progress, and which is more fundamental anyway, and which, who knows, might improve my understanding of math and thought such as to eventually lead to a better understanding of physics. In my experience, it tends to be better to be patiently lazy about such things, not letting attempts get ahead of insights and intimations, and not letting artificial goals direct oneself otherwise than wherever the unpredictable intimations of insight and beauty happen to be pointing at the moment.

Colliders kind of scare me slightly, actually; they're awfully violent.

chickelit said...

gerry wrote:
Were transistors developed as a result of really smart guys at Bell Labs thinking about how to apply that theory?

Absolutely! Have a look at "Broken Genius: The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age" by Joel Shurkin. He documents Shockley's days at Caltech during the quantum revolution and seeing speakers like Einstein.