October 9, 2013

"At the heart of this quest was an ancient idea, the concept of symmetry, and how it was present in the foundations of physics but hidden in the world as we experience it."

"In art and nature, something is symmetrical if it looks the same when you move it one way or another, like a snowflake rotated 60 degrees; in science and math, a symmetry is something that does not change when you transform the system, like the length of an arrow when you turn it around or shoot it."

11 comments:

Henry said...

From the article: Dr. Higgs, who does not use a cellphone or a computer, had gone off by himself for a few days without saying where, and that he would return Friday.

Dr. Higgs, [his colleague] said, is a modest man who likes his own company and the ability to come and go without a fuss.


Let's face it. When your name is on a boson, the Nobel Prize is a pretty distant second.

FleetUSA said...

Thanks for posting. An excellent read, especially page 2.

Henry said...

I'd also like to highlight this wonderfully over-the-top analogy:

According to [the Standard Model], the universe brims with energy that acts like a cosmic molasses, imbuing the particles that move through it with mass, the way a bill moving through Congress attracts riders and amendments, becoming more and more ponderous and controversial.

El Pollo Raylan said...

At the heart of this quest was an ancient idea, the concept of symmetry, and how it was present in the foundations of physics but hidden in the world as we experience it.

That sounds like a platonic love for beauty or something.

m stone said...

Surely there is no God.

Tibore said...

"Let's face it. When your name is on a boson, the Nobel Prize is a pretty distant second."

Yeah, but he can never read his name off that boson without screwing up what he knows about it's momentum.

*rimshot*

/nerdyphysicsjokes

YoungHegelian said...

Why did the NYT put the phrase "God Particle" in the headline? Higgs hates that phrase, as well he should. Is the Times just pissed off at him because he went into seclusion instead of blabbing it up with the press?

Gabriel Hanna said...

@El Pollo Raylan:That sounds like a platonic love for beauty or something.

No, it's not. It is a roundabout way of saying that any law of physics can be expressed mathematically as a symmetry with respect to some variable. There is a mathematical recipe that creates the restatement.

So, conservation of momentum can be restated as the laws of physics are symmetric with respect to position. Conservation of angular momentum can be restated as the laws of physics are symmetric with respect to rotation. Conservation of energy can be restated as the laws of physics are symmetric with respect to time. Conservation of electric charge can be restated as the laws of physics are symmetric with respect to the gradient of a scalar potential--and now the math gets harder.

But there is a straightforward way to get the symmetry from the law. Has nothing to do with love of anything.

El Pollo Raylan said...

@Gabriel Hanna: My riff was supposed to be a nod to Plato and the platonic solids familiar from Euclidean geometry. There is such beauty underlying the shapes of molecules, materials, and atomic orbitals.

Wasn't that obvious? :)

El Pollo Raylan said...

@Gabriel Hanna: Check out F. Albert Cotton's Chemical Applications Of Group Theory for examples.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@EPR: Not only is it on my shelf, I took the course...