Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

The Higgs Boson Made Simple

"What is the Higgs field? It's hard to visualize, so many people resort to metaphor. The Higgs field has been called a kind of cosmic molasses, pulling and dragging particles as they move through it. It's been compared to a room of paparazzi, blocking the way of celebrities but letting nobodies through without a fuss. And it's been likened to The Force from Star Wars, which 'surrounds us and penetrates us' and 'binds the galaxy together.'"

But we'll use an amorphous cloud of nothingness.

The concept of infinity meets little resistance, gliding easily through the amorphous cloud.

The human soul shuffles by on a ghostly plane, fast but still slowed by the nothingness.

And God lags behind, plodding and tripping with every step.

The Higgs field is like our amorphous cloud of nothingness, but instead of nothingness, it's made up of magic.

Particles that interact with the magic are changed somehow. They become, I dunno, "heavier?" An electron barely interacts with the magic, like the concept of infinity, and looks like the number 8, but laid on its side.

The quarks that make up protons and neutrons interact more strongly, like the human soul, and are immortal—destined to spend eternity either in heaven, eating whatever they want and without ever gaining weight, or in hell, sitting on a scratchy sofa in wet bathing suits watching Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal in Love and Other Drugs on an endless video loop. Depending on whether or not they believe in …

… Massive, plodding particles like the W and Z bosons.

Photons and gluons don't interact with the Higgs at all. They float like dust motes in a sunbeam coming through a window in a cafe in Paris, except the cafe does not serve coffee, only tea, and the window is not a window made of glass—it is a brick wall. How is light coming through it?

Fifty years ago, physicists had no idea why some particles were more "somethingy" than other particles.

So they thought up the Higgs to explain the difference. Remember when Hegel finally synthesized the subjective/objective capabilities of the human mind, declared himself the logical endpoint of human thought and wrote a book about that no one understands but they still make you read and write a paper about in philosophy class? Think about the color of the sky before there was such a thing as color.

It's basically like an invisible extra dimension, responsible for everything that we can perceive in our world, but no one knows for sure whether or not it exists.

Also, time.

7 Comments / Post A Comment

Werner Hedgehog (#11,170)

Fundamental-ish particles have all sorts of properties, including "strangeness" and "charm" and "flavour". The language is fanciful, but the terms a really just shorthand for the mathematical relationships we describe them with.

In a way, "inertia/mass" is now shorthand for "strength of coupling to the Higgs field", though it is a physical concept that our senses have some access to.

Annie K. (#3,563)

Didn't I explain this to you once already? How many times do you need it explained?

Dave Bry (#422)

Hahaha. YOU DID! And very helpfully. And I really like the snowy field metaphor, too. It's just that, man… if it all just wasn't so INVISIBLE!

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

I read Physics Today because it is sent to me for free as a member of The Acoustical Society of America. I certainly don't understand all of it, but if I skip over the big words, sense can be made and particle physics is fascinating.

Multiphasic (#411)

So, here's the thing with "Ball of Confusion." The part where Dennis Edwards shouts, "And the politicians say more taxes will solve everything!" Was this really a concern of most African Americans in the late '60s? Or was Norman Whitfield just channeling some random-ass bit of Goldwaterishness? Always seemed like a really weirdly conservative sentiment for the Temps' big "psychedelic soul" kickoff…

happyoldlady (#242,119)

@Multiphasic I've always taken it to mean "throwing money at the problem doesn't equate as addressing the root cause."

DOES GOD PARTICLE EXPLAIN UNIVERSE’S ORIGIN? Just google the title to access this popular Internet article of mine.

Babu G. Ranganathan*
(B.A. Bible/Biology)


*I have given successful lectures (with question and answer period afterwards) defending creation before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities. I've been privileged to be recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis "Who's Who in The East" for my writings on religion and science.

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