Tuesday, July 3, 2012
The Higgs Boson is Not a God Particle
The simplest version of the standard model gives everything a mass of zero, and the Higgs field and the Higgs boson were hypothesized as the mechanism that gives some things mass. If the Higgs does exist and does what the theory predicts, that would be a powerful sign that the standard model depicts the universe pretty well. More, it suggests that the logic behind the standard model is the right sort of logic for understanding the sub-atomic world.
Unfortunately, physicists have hit a dead end in trying to expand the standard model to gravity, which is why they have gotten into string theory and other arcane approaches. Many of us were hoping that the Higgs would not be found, since that would point to a flaw in the standard model and possibly suggest a way forward for physics. But if the Higgs is real, then the standard model holds, and we are still left with two beautiful and powerful but unreconcilable theories: the standard model for the sub-atomic world and general relativity for the world of big things whose interactions are controlled by gravity.
So kudos to the people at CERN if they have really pinpointed the Higgs, and shame on all the hucksters who have made this discovery out to be something bigger than the discovery of the proton or the electron.