Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Search for the God Particle

The God Particle : If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?

The "God particle" of the title is Lederman's term for what other physicists call a Higgs boson--a hypothetical particle that might hold a key to the subatomic world of quarks and leptons.

Even allowing for Lederman's open bias toward big physics, his book is a delight to read and absorb, far more accessible than most books about contemporary physics, because it is rooted in the experimental; the "God particle" of the title is the missing link of experimental physics, just as this book is the missing link between a complex world and the general reader.
Racing to the 'God Particle'

Because it plays a key role in the standard model of physics (the theory on which physicists base their whole understanding of matter), proving the existence or absence of the Higgs boson could rock the entire foundation of physics, indicating the existence of particles and forces not yet imagined and paving the way for an entirely new set of laws.

"What would shake the foundation of physics much more than finding the Higgs would be a definitive 'ruling it out.' That would upset all of our conceptions about how the universe works.
'God particle' may have been seen

Dr Renton cites indirect evidence taken from observations of the behaviour of other particles in colliders that agrees with the figure of 115 gigaelectronvolts for the mass of the Higgs boson.

"It's controversial. The data is possibly indicative, but it needs confirmation," said Bryan Webber, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge.

But the sums do not quite add up for the Standard Model to be true if these particles are considered alone. If only 16 particles existed, they would have no mass -
contradicting what we know to be true in nature.

Their theory was that all particles acquire their mass through interactions with an all-pervading field, called the Higgs field, which is carried by the Higgs boson.

The Higgs' importance to the Standard Model has led some to dub it the "God particle".
Top quark measurements give 'God particle' new lease on life

"...which is far more accurate than previous methods and has the potential to change the dynamics of the Standard Model of particle physics.

"No matter how hard we try to break the Standard Model, it always seems to flex and still work," says Ferbel. "It's puzzling because we know in the long run the model isn't quite right, but it won't be beaten down. Every time we put stress on it, it shows it's still alive and breathing."

(all emphasis mine)

These scientists all seem to be suggesting the possibility that further research may reveal a model of the universe which will stand all conventional and accepted notions completely on their collective ear.

What happens if it does? Where do you go from there? Continue to consider only those options which are "scientific," or open youselves up to the possibility of other than strictly mechanistic causalites?