DailyDirt: Making Progress In Particle Physics

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

If you look at the history of physics, there have been plenty of significant discoveries (as well as misconceptions). As technology gets better and better, the time interval between notable findings seems to be decreasing — and it looks like we’re making progress in understanding how the universe works. (But who knows, we could also discover some phenomenon so puzzling that we’d have to re-write everything.) Obviously, we don’t know everything yet, but here are just a few recent milestones that bolster the Standard Model of particle physics.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Making Progress In Particle Physics”

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Strafe says:

Regarding the Higgs Field, the assumption from the article seems to be it’s uniform throughout the universe. Isn’t it just as likely it’s not? Say it actually stretches and as it does this over time, it actually “thins out” so to speak (i.e. becomes less dense in places, just like a real ocean). Would the effect of this be that over time, the mass of matter would slowly decline the “thinner” the Higgs Field got? Could this then help explain why the expansion of the universe is speeding up rather than slowing down?

Is the Higgs Field infinite or does it only occupy space-time? If it does stretch, is there a breaking point? Could it also be possible the Higgs Field doesn’t fill space, but actually is space, as in it is the very fabric of reality itself?

All kinds of subatomic particles wink in and out of existence continuously, which I believe has been proven experimentally. Perhaps the Higgs Field is responsible in some way for this as well? Especially considering how (from the article) breaking off a particle of it causes that particle to immediately disintegrates into a multitude of subatomic particles.

If we can figure out how to manipulate the Higgs Field, could we not then increase and decrease the mass of an object (say a person) situated within that manipulated field, effectively causing a person to have no mass and therefore not be affected by gravity?

So many questions, so few answers. The mind races at the possibilities, if not for reality, then for science fiction at the very least lol. 🙂

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Unfortunately you have bought into the analogy too strongly. One other problem with physics is that over time the analogies used to explain to those who can’t do the maths start to acquire a life of their own.

The existence of the Higgs field must be universal – like the electric field, the gravitational field and the fermionic fields that give rise to the electron etc etc.

The value of the Higgs field in vacuum could (in principle) change from place to place – BUT that would create an energy gradient that would self resolve at the speed of light See Coleman’s paper “The fate of the false vacuum”

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I also note how history has been rewritten in the linked article – at the time that Higgs came up with the Higgs model he wasn’t “trying to understand the origin of mass” – at least not directly. They were trying to resolve the difficulties of two other mechanisms/models – that were already well known. Yang and Mills’s non-abelian gauge theory and Goldstone’s spontaneous symmetry breaking. The latter gave mass to one particle at the expense of creating another one that HAD to be massless whilst the former also seemed to give rise to massless particles. Now there would be no problem with this but for the fact that we don’t see the massless particles – the ones we do have (eg the photon) don’t have the right “signature”.

What Higgs did was to put the two theories together, stir the mathematical pot a bit and then… Voila! the two sets of massless particles stuck together and became massive as if by magic.

The remaining problem was that we didn’t see the massive particles either.

Of course if you can’t see a massive particle that isn’t a problem – it may just mean you haven’t cranked up you particle accelerator enough.

For the last 50 years physicists have been progressively cranking up their accelerators – and finally they found all the massive particles – the lst being the so called Higgs itself.

Strafe says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I enjoyed your replies, so thanks for doing so. It’s an amazing field of research that I would probably chase if I could do my life over again lol.

Magnetic fields expand and contract, so perhaps it’s possible for the Higgs Field to do the same. I know I’m thinking of this in very simplified terms, but I’m just a layman obviously.

Figuring out the rest of it (unified theory woohoo!) and especially how to manipulate these physical laws as we discover them, the same way we already do to some of it (manipulating electrons changed the world entirely), is an important game changer in regards to our survival I think. Especially gravity; I’m thinking cold fusion here just for starters, space travel and super dense materials as well. Plus I won’t lie; the thought of having the means to negate gravity altogether just sounds like a whole lot of fun lol.

Of course that is only so long as we can resist the temptation to abuse these discoveries for immoral reasons, the splitting of the atom being the last big one. The jury is still out on whether that was a good idea, despite the fact it helped bring an end to a costly war. “But power plants!” some might says. Sure it’s great for that, until you have a meltdown. And lets not forget these types of power plants also power submarines carrying nuclear munitions.

Suffice it to say discoveries like the Higgs Field give me hope for the future, but at the same time that enthusiasm is tempered by the knowledge it may perhaps also rob of us any future. Sigh…

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