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What Is the Higgs Boson? [Video]

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George Musser About the Author: is a contributing editor at Scientific American. He focuses on space science and fundamental physics, ranging from particles to planets to parallel universes. He is the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to String Theory. Musser has won numerous awards in his career, including the 2011 American Institute of Physics's Science Writing Award. Follow on Twitter @gmusser.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. rloldershaw 10:48 am 07/2/2012

    The “Standard Model” of particle physics originally predicted that particles have zero mass, which is clearly falsfied by observation.

    So theoretical particle physicists tacked on the ad hoc “Higgs Mechanism” that involves a somewhat bizarre spontaneous symmetry-breaking that makes the particles have mass. It involves introducing a new field and particle(s). The putative Higgs is supposed to be a spin=0 scalar particle. All of this is a bit weird and forced in my opinion.

    So the question is: Do we have a Ptolemaic situation where the “mechanism” can roughly reproduce the observed phenomena, but has nothing to do with how nature actually works?

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    Discrete Scale Relativity

    Link to this
  2. 2. Plain-2009 1:24 am 07/3/2012

    Very interesting mini-lessons. The possibilities of teaching through Internet are immense. We are just scratching at the surface at this point, I guess. Efforts should be continued.

    Link to this
  3. 3. rloldershaw 10:57 am 07/3/2012


    It seems to me that theoretical particle physics is more religion than science.

    If theories can avoid any predictions whatsoever (e.g., string/brane theory), or if theories can arbitrarily “adjust” their ersatz “predictions” (e.g., the standard model, especially QCD; supersymmetry; “WIMP” dark matter; etc.), then you do not have testable science. You have pseudoscience.

    Albert Einstein showed many times how theories of principle can make definitive predictions that are prior, feasible, quantitative, non-adjustable and unique to the theory being tested. General Relativity is the archetypal example. That is what science aspires to, not fudged “model-building” which can only be viewed as temporary constructs that beg to be replaced by theories of principle.

    We need to be less credulous. We need to demand theories of principle that can make and pass definitive predictions.

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    Fractal Cosmology
    Discrete Scale Relativity

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  4. 4. rloldershaw 9:07 pm 07/3/2012

    And finally (I promise):

    1. It appears that the di-photon decay channel rate is at least a factor of 2 higher than “Standard Model” predictions.

    2. It also appears that the WW decay channel is virtually missing in the LHC data, which should not be the case at all!

    3. The combination of 1 and 2 was definitely not anticipated

    Are new epicycles going to be required to get the “right” answer?

    Do theoretical particle physicists want the “Higgs Mechanism” so badly that they have lost scientific objectivity?

    Sorry for asking inconvenient questions, but someone must and few seem inclined to do so.

    Robert L. Oldershaw
    Discrete Scale Relativity
    Fractal Cosmology

    Link to this
  5. 5. Daniel35 12:38 am 07/11/2012

    Robert, it seems to me that all of quantum physics and cosmology is more religion than science. If it makes more sense to more professional scientists, fine, but I think it’s so far beyond the understanding of most SciAm readers as to be meaningless. For instance, what is meant by “spin up” or “spin down” of a particle? How long is the chain of assumptions leading to the mysteries of dark matter and energy? What difference will any of this make in most people’s lives, unless we find an even more special particle that converts inertia to gravity and collapse the universe, and maybe creates another Big Bang?

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