On Higgs-Boson: (My Favorite FB post ever)
July 8, 2012
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Rainer Wallney just blew my mind with this Facebook post, the single coolest thing anyone has ever shared. He is explaining the Higgs-Boson stuff:
“Brother Gabe, over the 13.8 billion years the universe is old, it went from the big bang to present day through a series of “phase transitions” and massive epochs of expansion. A phase transition is when matter finds another arrangement which is energetically more favorable building certain structures, like condensing and finally freezing water with falling temperature (you asked for metaphor). Now, a crucial step is when the universe developed from a “hot soup” of massless particles zipping around at the speed of light, interacting in one unified way (we call that :”grand unification”) into the dynamics we know today described by the Standard Model – i.e. differentiated in three interactions (we for now have to punt about gravitation which is the odd man out) with different ranges and strengths. These interactions govern e.g. chemistry and radioactive decays responsible for fusion processes in the sun, i.e. stuff quite relevant for our every day life. In this crucial step, about a trillionth second after the big bang, some particles (not all) acquired mass, i.e. inertia, by coupling to the Higgs field, a special energy field postulated to permeat the universe. This has profound consequences for the ensuing phase transitions/structure formation which perhaps is plausible – structure formation, i.e. quarks coalescing into protons and neutrons looks, if at all possible, quite different if particles zip around at the speed of light or at slower speeds. But since they acquired mass, they now slow down and hence can “find each other” to produce what ultimately is the ordinary matter (and other) we know and love. Now, one crucial prediction of this “Higgs mechanism” is that there is (at least) one special particle, a Spin 0 particle called sometimes the Higgs boson – and we have come very close to claiming that we have found such particle. We have found _a_ particle not inconsistent with the H-Particle, but we need to be sure and measure a bit more until we can declare victory. But the fact that there is something beyond doubt, i.e. a new boson particle, is a sensation by itself. Crucial for this Higgs mechanism idea is, like is true already in quantum field theory, that “empty space” isn’t quite empty – the vacuum, the very fabric of space time, has a certain structure. Does this make sense a bit ? I would love to have a few negra modelo with you to elaborate if needed if it wasn’t for this big pond …”
I have some freakishly smart friends.
Aside from his physics, this is what Rainer loves best :