1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Latest update in the search for the Higgs boson

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by AvalancheMaster, Jul 4, 2012.

  1. Mise

    Mise isle of lucy

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2004
    Messages:
    28,596
    Location:
    London, UK
    Apologies in advance for this somewhat rambling post...

    Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man ;)

    I mean, I agree with it - I think the surface of Mars is much less interesting than a groundbreaking discovery in particle physics, but I can easily see why other people are more interested in the surface of Mars than in particle physics. And I don't think there is any "objective" response here - I don't think that particle physics is objectively more interesting than the surface of Mars. I can't force people to become interested in particle physics; I can't force people to think that particle physics is fascinating and more worthy of our understanding than the surface of another planet. How do you even deem what is "worthy" and what isn't?

    You talk about knowing what reality is made of as being important, but about 50 years ago, this stuff got so distanced from everyday notions of "reality" that it stopped seeming at all "real" to most people. Atomic-level particles can at least manifest themselves in our everyday world as chemical reactions or describing how we breathe oxygen and exhale CO2 etc etc. But beneath that atomic level, it all becomes so abstract that most people, myself included, find it less and less "worthy" of understanding. It leaves my everyday realm of "reality" and starts becoming ephemeral and "cute".

    Mars, on the otherhand, is quite clearly within my everyday notion of reality (it's a freaking planet!), and within my realm of understanding. I understand, when I look at a photograph of Mars, that I'm seeing the surface of another planet. And that is fascinating to me, and to other people too. Mars is within my "reality", so understanding more about Mars increases my understanding of what "reality" is made of for me.

    But perhaps you disagree with my initial assumption, that we can't "force" people to find particle physics fascinating. Perhaps we can convince people to see particle physics the way you see it. The way "celebrity" physicists like Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Brian Cox see it. Perhaps we can get those scientists to go on TV and speak so passionately and so compellingly about particle physics that the general public becomes as enamoured with it as they are. Well, I'm sure you can - but there are people, purists, who will see this as "cute", and risks dumbing down physics to appeal to the lowest common denominator. In any case, isn't this merely accepting the notion that only popular physics will be well funded, but trying to redefine, or rebrand, particle physics as popular or "sexy"? It seems to me that either way, "purists" are at the wrong end of this argument.
     
  2. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2004
    Messages:
    27,947
    Location:
    Brno -> Czech rep. >>European Union
    Just a side note - we're not sending probes to Mars to get just the pretty pictures. Mars as a planetary body is the 2nd most interesting in the Solar System (after Earth) in terms of its geological and potentially biological history. Determining the nature of these processes and finding an example of extraterrestrial life will have huge implications for our understanding of the Universe.

    If we find life that has arisen independently on Earth life, then the chances are that the Galaxy is full of planets teeming with life. If we find life related to Earth life, that it will tell us how simple microbial life can travel through space and seed other worlds. Maybe we'll find out that Earth life isn't really Earth life, but Mars life that travelled to Earth in rocks billions of years ago. If we find no traces of life on Mars, present or past, and at the same time determine that the conditions were in fact optimal for its genesis, that it will suggest that life does not arise whenever all the ingredients are present and that some amount of freak chance is involved in the process. That would mean that life could be extremely rare in the Universe (which I hope would increase the eco-awareness of humanity to a new level).

    These questions (and many, many more) are just as important to answer as finding Higgs boson is to the physicists.
     
  3. Quackers

    Quackers The Frog

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2008
    Messages:
    10,282
    Location:
    Great Britain
    ..bit OT here but how did a lump of rock with microrganisms just...break out of Mars' orbit and get to Earth?
     
  4. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2004
    Messages:
    27,947
    Location:
    Brno -> Czech rep. >>European Union
    Asteroid impacts.
     
  5. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton How much Parmesan to put on your umbrella?

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    10,094
    @Mise
    There is one giant problem with your "whatever-the-market-decides-and-if-you-think-you-know-better-you-are-just-an-elitist"-approach. When we talk about public funding - which we were doing - there is no market for Mars pictures which would actually fund ventures to Mars. If there was, we wouldn't need to publicly fund it. The entire point of public funding is that there is no market or at least, that the merits of the market regarding financial returns are too insecure - that is, too risky - to attract sufficient private capital (well there is a also a different reason linked to redistribution of wealth and civil solidarity, but that is irrelevant right now).
    Hence your suggested way to measure usefulness - which equates popular with useful - by market demand (a situation where popular arguably equals usefulness) is only applicable on private ventures, not on public ones.
     
  6. Mise

    Mise isle of lucy

    Joined:
    Apr 13, 2004
    Messages:
    28,596
    Location:
    London, UK
    In order for the government to fund something, whether it be NASA or universal healthcare or secondary schools or roads or whatever, there has to be a democratic mandate for it to do so. That is, the government has to listen to the people in deciding what it should spend the people's money on. If the people would rather fund Mars photos than particle research, then so be it. I'm not sure why you think there is a problem in what I'm saying? I'm not saying anything particularly new or insightful here - I'm just describing how things get paid for in a democracy.
     
  7. Thorgalaeg

    Thorgalaeg Warlord

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Messages:
    4,873
    Location:
    Spain
    @Mise, while for interesting you meant "appealing" i meant "important" (in Spanish interesting means both, sorry if it doesnt in English).

    I mean important in a very objective way as all this knownledge is fundamental for our future as specie in the samne way as we first needed to discard flogiston and all the fundamentally wrong alchemic beliefs to develop the basic knowledge of atoms electrons and chemistry. We are in the same situation of developing a real knownledge of nature discarding the wrong theories. Maybe it seems particle physics has not direct application in our current daily world (which is not really true either but i'll agree it is not very visible) but all this fundamental knownledge will without a doubt have practical applications we cant even remotely imagine right now, the same way Faraday couldnt imagine an iphone. The fact of it being further in the future does not make it less relevant, at least if we are speaking from a not entirelly egoistical point of view as probably it will be our sons or grandsons who will see it.

    Consequently science must be based in pure curiosity not in self-interest. OTOH separation between science and common people is mostly unavoidable as science gets deeper and more complex and practical application takes longer to come. Its a big problem which gets worse as current science (particullarly experiemntal science) needs big public money and big public institutions instead of some clever guy working at home cellar. So yes, we need more Carl Sagans to develop public curiosity towards pure science or we will be in a democracy vs science kind of situation and will need some technocratic government which doesnt care about public opinion at least in these matters, otherwise we'll be under a very real stagnation risk which may prove devastating in the long run.
     
  8. Terxpahseyton

    Terxpahseyton How much Parmesan to put on your umbrella?

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    10,094
    @Mise
    We didn't explicitly talk about how things get paid for in a democracy, we talked about usefulness. And to asses that popular targets of public funding is identical to useful targets of public funding is something "new". Which was your claim and which I debate. You substantiated this claim with a reference to private markets. I pointed out, that public funding is no private market and I conclude by that that your reference is invalid. Why? Because what makes popular = maximum utility in a private market is in its validity based on the theory of rational self-interest. But the same theory says, that it is not rational to try to maximize ones use regarding the public domain because of the de facto lack of any influence. According to the theory of rational self-interest, people shouldn't even vote. As a consequence, to assess that the democratic influence of the people on public funding would reflect the choice of the individual regarding private purchase in so far as that popular would equal maximum utility is totally unsubstantial.
    Or in other words - it is not enough that people somehow have the theoretical possibility to maximize personally perceived utility. The condition under which this happens have to also reward the maximization of utility by an actually gain corresponding to this utility and they have to punish a failure to do so. But most people have not the slightest clue how any given public research project will or could eventually effect them. That means, that they lack the means ([representative!] democracy) as well as the information to be even able to maximize utility with regards to public research funding. As a consequence - they won't! Hence what is popular is not actually a reflection of utility in the way it is on the private market.
     
  9. ghostmaker650

    ghostmaker650 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Messages:
    127
    Location:
    SF Bay Area, CA
    To be clear, by the explanation of the videos linked here, it's not the Higgs boson that gives particles mass, rather it's the Higgs field. The Higgs boson is just an excitation left over from the process by which the Higgs field gives particles mass.

    Right?? :confused:
     
  10. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2004
    Messages:
    27,947
    Location:
    Brno -> Czech rep. >>European Union
    I understand that the Higgs boson is the particle that *is* the field. Just as photons are the particles that make up light or, theoretically, gravitons are the particles that make gravity.

    (not that I have any idea how that works)
     
  11. Thorgalaeg

    Thorgalaeg Warlord

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Messages:
    4,873
    Location:
    Spain
    Yep. It is all about wave-corpuscle duality and quantum mechanics in general. Everything is both things (wave and particle) at the same time. But dont try to visualize it as you will get it wrong. Even sciencists have tried to conceptualize it in human therms and have failed. In fact there is several "interpretations" about it from the "classical" Copenahgen interpretation (the "Schrodinger cat", you know) to the multiverse interpretation. The issue is these things can only be explained mathematically and human language and mind are unable to visualize it, so dont try. Most physicists have given it up trying and now the common maxima is "shut up and calculate!".
     
  12. Pokurcz

    Pokurcz Chieftain

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2005
    Messages:
    1,139
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Karlstad, Sweden
    Subatomic level particles do manifest themselves in the everyday world, especially in "chemical reactions". For example the orientation of carbon atoms to each other and other atoms is completely dependant on what happens inside the atom. It is the subatomic level that distinguishes one atom from the other and gives them different atributes that are necessary for any biological process. How are we to understand chemical reactions without the knowledge behind what makes the atoms behave as they do?

    THe subatomic level is also important in everyday physics, in electronics especially, smaller and smaler cirquits give huge benefits in lower power consumption and more dense computational and storage devices. These shrinking electronics are now closing in on the realm of quantum physics.

    All these things are possible to do today because of what high energy physics did yesterday, so in deed it is much more than just cute and will deliver the advances of tomorrow, in physics, chemistry and medicine, that everyone has gotten used to expect.:scan:
     
  13. uppi

    uppi Warlord

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Messages:
    4,390
    Yes. In principle the interaction with every field (maybe except for gravity) has to be described as the interaction of its quanta - its "particles". For example, the interaction with the electromagnetic field has to be described as the interaction with photons. If you do that, you'll recover the classical description of a field, so electrical engineers can just use Maxwell's equations and don't have to care about that. But in some situations, the description by a field cannot explain the behavior of nature, so you need consider quantized fields. And for the Higgs field, this quantum is called the Higgs boson.



    No, not really. All you describe happens on the atomic level. Chemical reactions and electronic behavior are determined by the properties of the atoms. The subatomic level can explain why the properties of the atoms are what they are, but for most technological applications there is no need to go to the subatomic level.

    There are some applications in medicine for imaging procedures involving subatomic particles and there are other proposals for technological applications of subatomic particles (e.g. nuclear clocks), but for the most part, the applications of high-energy physics are not that important (for the moment).
    Low-energy physics is much more important for technology today.
     
  14. Pokurcz

    Pokurcz Chieftain

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2005
    Messages:
    1,139
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Karlstad, Sweden
    To understand what Vand der Waahls binding or covalent binding is all about, you have to understand that there is something called an electron that working together with a proton gives everyday effects. For example electricity.

    The electron and the proton are subatomic particles, that together with neutrons and weak and strong subatomic forces (and Quarks) give rise to radioactive decay.

    Radioactive decay has three varieties (alpha, beta and gamma) wich are all subatomic in every way. They give us such everyday effects as nuclearpower plants and radiation that can have very very real effects in the form of death or just plain old every day real like x-rays at the dentist. I fail to see how they are "not that important".

    THe fact that electronics are on the verge of reaching quantum fluctuation problems seems to me tied with high energy physics.

    That we are starting to be able to directly manipulate individual atoms seems to be conected to high energy physics.

    If we understand subatomic physics we can more easily understand atomic level physics, this is where new ideas and inventions often come from, understanding stuff; that and stupid old chance.
     
  15. uppi

    uppi Warlord

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Messages:
    4,390
    That's all about atomic properties, i.e. the combined effects of nuclei and electrons, their electric and magnetic moments and so on. That is not what I would call subatomic level physics. You might differ, but it is certainly not related to high-energy physics.

    I specifically mentioned medical imaging and I grant you nuclear power. But as some of the most advanced countries are able to live without nuclear power plants it cannot be that important.


    No, that is low-energy physics. To see quantum fluctuations you usually need to be very, very cold instead of having very high energy. In fact electronics are still above the atomic scale. Those are the result of collective effects of many atoms, there isn't really anything subatomic to consider there.

    No. I can directly manipulate individual single atoms without having to consider high energy physics at all.

    Quantum Electrodynamics is already so accurate that anything beyond it would have to be such minor corrections that it would be irrelevant for atomic level physics in the near future.

    To not understand me wrong: I consider investigating subatomic physics for the sake of understanding nature a very worthwhile goal. But the actual applications for it are very minor for the moment and I don't see any groundbreaking applications in the near future. If the only goal was to improve our lives with better technology, there would be much better ways to spend the money. So I would be very careful to try to justify high-energy physics by its applications.
     
  16. Save_Ferris

    Save_Ferris Admiring Myself

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Messages:
    3,138
    Location:
    Straight Outa Ponyville
    Honestly, if this is applicable to technology in the foreseeable future we would see applications for quarks and whatnot long before.
     
  17. AvalancheMaster

    AvalancheMaster Not the face of mercy.

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2012
    Messages:
    190
    Location:
    Yubaba's Bath House
    Somebody mentioned that this might make possible reaching speed over the speed of light. I'd throw a wild guess and wonder if this'd make possible to circumvent gravity (or create artificial gravity), and if this is achievable, would a de facto perpetuum mobile (though not in scientific terms), powered by the constant movement of our planet, solar system and galaxy, be possible.

    Again, this is nothing but a wild guess.
     
  18. Thorgalaeg

    Thorgalaeg Warlord

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Messages:
    4,873
    Location:
    Spain
    I dont this is directly related to warp speed or artificial gravity. But undoubtedly if humanity is going to reach anytime in the distant future such technological level, this knowledge about true nature of things will be a fundamental prerequisite.

    Spoiler :
    :D
     
  19. Pokurcz

    Pokurcz Chieftain

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2005
    Messages:
    1,139
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Karlstad, Sweden
    What I am saying is that when there is few enough atoms involved the quantum laws of physics get involved. And for the third time, I know that we are not there right now, but that we are closing in on that moment in the future.

    An Yes that still is not high energy physics, developing those future electronics, but high energy physics has been used to understand the physics that are involved.
     
  20. Thorgalaeg

    Thorgalaeg Warlord

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2002
    Messages:
    4,873
    Location:
    Spain
    I am getting the impression things are getting mixed here.

    -High energy physics: is the study of fundamental subatomic particles when you need to use high energies to "break" matter in order to see said particles. It is basically the physics they do at particle accelerators.

    -Low energy physic: anything else.

    Quantum mechanics are not exclusive of HEP as might be understood from some posts here. For instance quantum effects are fundamental to understand chemistry, since electronic orbitals, which are purely a quantum mechanics concept, are the central piece of chemistry. However it does not make chemistry anything related to high energy physics at all.
     

Share This Page