The Higgs boson, the Higgs, the God Particle is the hypothetical particle believed to give matter it's mass. Proposed by Peter Higgs and other physicists it has been the object of search at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). After running the LHC continually for five months, "CERN scientists declared that over the entire range of energy the Collider had explored...the Higgs boson is excluded as a possibilty with a 95% probability."
Although there is still a 5% chance that it may still be found in this range (the search will continue until the end of the year), and the lower ranges have been explored by smaller colliders, it is possible that the Higgs does not exist. And this would be a blow to the unification theory of electromagnetic and weak forces and how the universe came into being.
I don't know why, but I was disappointed at the news. But then I thought, what does it really matter? What would have been accomplished that would have had a positive impact on humanity? Are all the billions that have spent on this project spent simply to satisfy the curiosty of the physicists - or is there something more?
I believe that pure, undirected research, is important - but this search makes me hesitate.
(Scientific American, Guest Blog by Amir Aczel)
Why so? The guy's been in the forefront on major issues, no?
You're right to call me on what looks like blind faith -- though I don't think that is what I am doing here.
I have preliminary trust in Hawkins, since he has such a proven track record... and that seems to me a rather different thing than unwarranted confidence or faith. And yes, there's a little bias to my viewpoint since I am hoping for a radical shakeup in particle physics.
Still, having a little trust is not unreasonable in a situation like this, since I am not qualified to understand these early results yet. (The same goes for many areas of unsettled scientific and medical research, come to think of it.) If the scientific consensus eventually changes to something else, I will change my views.. hence the 'preliminary' aspect to this. As long as I'm open to changing later, I don't think I'm being intellectually lazy here.
Of course, the whole concept of scientific consensus could be another debate.
Oh, no worries; it doesn't come across as harsh. It is quite fair to raise a flag when it looks like blind faith or hero worship is coming into play, instead of logic and reason. Though as far as heroes go, you're right, he's kind of an awe-inspiring guy.
I am also quite confident that there are plenty of good physicists who will happily call him out if he's making a mistake, too. CERN is full of smart folks after all, and lets face it, finding (or proving you can't find) the Higgs would be worth a Nobel or two, right? So there's a lot of active interest.
From what I've heard, its looking more and more likely the LHC >won't< find the Higgs. If Hawkins could make his guess as to why he was right (and his thoughts on the implications) understandable to an educated lay person I'd love to learn them.
Arthur C. Clarke had a great quote on this matter:
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
If Hawking is right about the LHC not finding the Higgs, he kind of wins a 'two-fer', being right about his prediction AND beating Clarke's Law here concerning older scientists. Presumably he is waiting for the final announcement/confirmation before putting forth his ideas on this. I am unusually excited at the prospect.