Thursday, July 05, 2012

The God Particle

I write a lot of scientific stuff, so I suppose I should write on this. The problem is that I have practically nothing to say on it.

I got excited about particle physics once upon a time, when I was very young, and there were protons, neutrons, and electrons, maybe neutrinos. Then they started bringing in muons and gluons and quarks and The Higgs Boson (to be pronounced reverently). They found most of them by smashing other particles together and sifting through the debris, which is how they found the Higgs, except it took a lot more and very exacting sifting, which is why it's taken so long.

The Higgs is supposed to be what provides mass to all the others and therefore what keeps us sitting down at our computers rather than floating off in space in reality rather than metaphorically. So it may provide some insight into gravity and related stuff, but, at the moment, the only insight is that it exists. The physicists haven't been able to explain gravity yet.

So it's exciting for the people who do such things, and they're telling us that it's exciting, so a great many people are getting excited.

What is significant, maybe, is that the United States gave up the lead in particle physics some time ago, when Congress decided to defund the Superconducting Supercollider in Texas. The particle hunt was becoming more esoteric and much more expensive. So the Higgs was found in Europe, although American scientists were involved. This can be taken as a withdrawal of the United States from Big Science, or it can be taken as an indication of the declining regard for physics after its inflation by the atom bomb. It could also be looked at as Europe's taking up its responsibilities in improving the world's understanding of itself. Very likely all three.

And I find "the God particle" the kind of pretentious nonsense that physicists are all too prone to write. And then use a gaucherie like the wrong font to announce it.

Lots of links here.

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