I am still looking for an answer as to how the world could be changed by the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. What are some possible outcomes for society? I do not doubt that it will change, and I agree fully with it's value, however, I can't find any specifics in what ways it might change or what new technologies might be created with or without the Higgs Boson.
Also, at a 9 Billion USD price tag, how were our governments convinced? There must be something beyond scientific intellectual curiosity. Those of us with this curiosity may be happy to pay for it, but how were politicians convinced? What value will this provide to the governments of the world who made the decision to purchase this answer.
I'm sure it's not this...
Scientists: "We need 9 Billion to find out if the Higgs Boson particle exists."
Governments: "OK, here is your 9 Billion."
... 15 years later
Scientists: "The answer is yes. The Higgs Boson does exist."
Governments: "Oh, that's really great."
Update: I understand and agree fully with the value of this research. I am asking if there are any specific technologies that are expected to be advanced or if it is just added knowledge that could lead anywhere. I am also wondering how it was explained to politicians who don't have specific interest in science.
Better understanding of the standard model will buy us many things, most of which we don't yet realise will be interesting, useful, fun, exciting, and important. Better understanding of the standard model will possibly give us:
* Quantum computers
* Room temperature superconductors
* Substances strong enough to build a space elevator
40 years ago we had no idea how to build 'planes that were bigger, stronger, faster, and more efficient than the ones we had, and yet people did the basic research anyway, just because they thought it might be useful. They found composite structures, and we got the 'planes and other things. The metals used in car engines have improved enormously, in part because of what was seen at the time as being basic research that might not really go anywhere.
But in the end it's basic science, and we don't always know how - or whether - it will repay itself. For every advance that has gained us something there are other efforts that have led nowhere, but we never know in advance which will be which.
That's the nature of research -- you don't know
what in hell you're doing. -- 'Doc' Edgerton
If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be
called research, would it? -- Albert Einstein
I have no idea how old you are, but I'm fifty, and stuff exists now that didn't when I was in my teens, partly because of people doing basic research.
The question I have is really how it was explained to politicians and decision makers who are not scientific. Was it really, "with this research we could discover anything from teleportation to a better way to make toasters", or was it something more specific?
I currently see our governments doing everything they can to limit discovery and creativity because they don't understand basic science or the Internet. It is interesting and heartening to me that a project like this currently exists and is mostly not questioned.
<cynical rant>To the extent that politicians did have to be persuaded, they were probably persuaded by other means than that of elucidating the potential scientific payoffs. They were probably persuaded using political arguments, i.e. how it would play with their voters. Politicians are not, in practice, guardians of a sacred trust. They operate by their own rules and for their own reasons.</cynical rant>
To the politicians, it suffices to say that "It's bigger than what the Americans got".
The importance of CERN for European science and culture as a whole is an interesting subject, but I'd assume it's had very much positive effect.
The truth is that it's easier for politicians to buy votes with handouts than it is for them to fund research in the hopes that an enlightened public will appreciate them for their foresight. Looks like they're correct... unfortunately.
* Controlled Fusion
My guess is that the politicians were sold on the unlimited energy that successful controlled fusion would provide.
As somebody once said: Any problem on Earth can be solved with the careful application of high explosives. The trick is not to be around when they go off.
X-rays, electricity, penicillin we're all discoved with no practical application in mind.
x-rays, maybe, but even electricity im doubtful of. While it may not have been possible then to predict all the uses of electricity, i'm pretty sure someone had the idea of using it's power to, well, power things...
He did the research, he published, and the publication sat for 12 years until a couple of other people came along, and tried to build on it by making a practical product out of it.
Also after penicillin was discovered, researchers going back found evidence that other scientists had encountered it, and had failed to see that it had potential.
About electricity, Maxwell (who unified electricity and magnetism in one set of equations) when asked to justify the value of his work famously replied, "To tell you the truth we don't do it because it is useful but because it's amusing." In retelling the story he added, "Would it be any good to ask a mother what practical use her baby is?"
This is a clear demonstration that the scientists studying electricity in the early days did not know what practical utility their work would have. (Though the connection between electricity and magnetism today drives generators and electric motors all over the world, and the prediction of electromagnetic waves lead to the understanding of what light really is, and to the development of the telegraph, radio, television, etc, etc.)
So your point about Penicillin might be correct, but you are completely wrong about X-rays and electricity.
False dilemma. When we spend trillions of dollars a year to kill people in the name of stopping violence, 10^-3 of that for curiosity is not something that is rational to attack. Particularly when exploration for curiosity's sake has led to plenty of demonstrably beneficial results.
Government funding needs to justify itself, not against other uses for the money. The bills have come due and we need to cut out what isn't vital. 9 billion could have paid a lot of health insurance policies.
I'm glad they valued this, but it needs to be valuable based on its own merit.
The American military's V-22 tilt-rotor "Osprey" helicopter program will cost approximately $36B. A cursory web search will show that it is considered a deathtrap that does not meet most of its design objectives.
So is the value of a program to build suicide machines worth four times more than knowing more about how foundational reality is constructed? Blark, argh, divide by zero. If you get paid to build suicide machines, it's a valuable program. If you get paid to fly a suicide machine, it both is and it isn't. If you are watching someone who is flying a suicide machine die, it probably isn't. If you like science more than you like watching people die, no. If you like watching people die more than you like science, yes. On and on and over and over in limitless permutations multiplied by every taxpayer.
All you can say with certainty is that someone or some party in the course of a government process valued that process at some point enough to make it happen.
I'm glad they chose to fund this, but my original point is that no government funding these days should survive unless it can be justified. We cannot keep running deficits.
Your "cursory web search" might want to include actual statistics on accidents particularly compared to the CH-46 it is replacing.
There is no test to separate pork from fiber where there is no fundamental accountability. Spending programs exist because spending programs exist.
At this point, if it doesn't keep the lights on, the trains running, or protect / save lives; it needs to be looked at for cutting.
The NIH gets $30B/yr. I don't know where the $9B figure for the LHC came from, but I bet it's total cost, over what, 10-15 years?
As an aside in 2011, Defense and international security assistance is 20% of the budget. Social Security spending was higher than that (731 vs 718 billion). Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP was a bit bigger at $769 billion. The rest of the safety net style programs was $466 billion. $230 billion was spent paying interest on the national debt.
"what are our governments buying for us?":
- possible future applications
It's that simple. That's always how fundamental research works. How politicians were convinced, I don't know - that's an excellent question.
Actually, finding those particles doesn't tell us that the standard model is correct. Finding those particles just tells us that it doesn't have some specific errors.
One difference between science and math is that you can't prove anything "correct" in science.
To be fair, you can only prove something "correct" in math to the extent that it agrees with the underlying axioms. In broader scientific fields, an assertion is just as "correct" if it agrees with the underlying models.
In mathematics, you can challenge the validity of axioms, which is usually a pointless thing to do, or you can point out, as Goedel did, that some assertions will remain unprovable within any given framework of axioms. So the math guys know where they stand, at least.
In many areas of science, the experimental method is becoming less and less useful over time. Particle physicists need to know how well the Standard Model agrees with reality, because so much of their future work will depend on assumptions that can only be tested against the model. (We won't see a bigger-than-LHC facility constructed anytime soon, put it that way, and that was the case even before the recent global financial problems came to light.)
Similarly, the work of climatologists can be, and has been, attacked because it depends on models, and the map is not the territory. As with the Standard Model of particle physics, an assertion can be shown to be unequivocally true or false within the bounds of a given climate model, but not in reality, because we only have one Earth to experiment with. In both climatology and particle physics, the lab door is now locked. The models are all we have to go by, so it's really important that we get them right.
When we can use it to model the things we percieve, that's great, but at it's most fundamental level, mathematics is not a natural science (if that's the right term) - it's a human construct - purely abstract.
But to be fair, when we say "prove" in common speech with regards to science, do we really need to say "science can't prove anything?" - every time? Most people get that on forums that discuss such things - "proven" in these things simply mean their theories checked out.
We'll never know what the universe really "IS" - we only know what we percieve, directly or indirectly,and what we can predict. It's still turtles, all the way down.
- not literally that it's an absolute truth - that's impossible, as you said, other than in mathematics.
There's something more absolute and universal about math.
Similarly thousands of things can make up a single thing. [Like bosons in a Bose-Einstein Condensate].
Or in the case in point where you just stick various particles in a pot and pull out some other particles with corresponding energy. For example in beta decay a neutron changes to a proton emitting a W- particle which itself decays to an electron and electron-anti-neutrino (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Beta_Negative_Decay.svg).
Ultimately maths is axiomatic, so not universal, and Godel shows that it's not absolute.
1. That mass is not an intrinsic property of matter; rather it is acquired by the particle's interaction with Higgs field.
2. A massless particle travels at the speed of light.
When controlled, this has the potential to result in super crazy outcomes (super fast transfer of matter and energy etc).
PS: Please correct my interpretation if it looks wrong.
By the way, what was the common man's response when Newton first explained gravity? Probably, "Things fall, what more do you need to know"
If I'm starving? It's not worth more than a meal.
I'm pretty sure that the invention of much of the communication technologies we have today were not readily predicted in the mid-1800's when Maxwell was developing EM theory.
I admire this method of conveying ideas and information (animation). It's a great way to consume these clips.
The RSA has a whole series of 10 minute lectures which they animate on a whiteboard in this style. The illustrations are brilliant.
(search for RSA Animate)
I still don't get how they jumped from "We have this Higgs field" to "and hey, the field is a particle."
Think of an excitation of the field. One of the "axioms" of quantum field theory is that the energy of an excitation is related to the inverse square of the wavelength. Don't ask me why, it's just like that. Think of UV radiation or X-rays, which are just light with a higher frequency and you know those radiation is more damaging to the human body than for example radio waves.
Now, are you familiar with Fourier decomposition? It's the idea that all functions are the sum of a waves (sines and cosines). We do the same thing in quantum field theory, we have our quantum field and we write it as the sum of our elementary wavefunctions, which are called plane waves. When you look at a wave packet, you can't really say what its wavelength is. Wavelength is not a local concept, as for example the height of the wave, but the wave differs from place to place, so it's impossible to give it just one wavelength! We don't have that problem with plane waves. Because they're the same all over the universe, they have a clear wavelength and thus a well-defined, unique energy. This concept, an excitation of a field with a well-defined energy (and thus a well-defined mass!) is what particle physicists call "a particle".
When a collision happens in a collider, we're actually preparing two plane waves and pointing them in the same direction. As they collide, the wavefunctions of the various fields become incredibly complex. We humans can only "see" excitations with a well-defined mass, or better yet, our detectors can only detect excitations with a well-defined mass. And thus instead of a complicated field, we see a mess of particles going in different directions and having different masses, energies and speeds.
Does that make it any clearer?
If you're wondering why there's exactly 12 (+ 1 for the Higgs?) fields, I cannot answer that question and it's one of the open questions in current theoretical physics.
When we have particular constraints (e.g. known energy) that constrains the space of possible waveforms. E.g. when we talk about there being an electron in an orbital around an atomic nucleus, what we actually mean is there's a waveform. of a particular shape around the nucleus.
Are you asking why we only ever see waveforms corresponding to whole numbers of electrons? That's the "quantum" part of quantum mechanics; certain values are quantized (e.g. electric charged). I don't have a good intuition for why that's so though, except to observe that the time evolution of a system preserves this quantization, so there's no way to ever go from having one electron to having half an electron (for example).
A final answer would be boring..... WHY is a fantastic question - it's just not something pure science can answer with finality, only layers until we get to an unknown.
The number of waveforms isn't finite by the way. There's a fundamental waveform for every momentum (which can be any real number) and for every number of particles (which must be a positive integer).
I'm not quite sure what you mean by "orthogonal" as the mathematics involved is not simply linear algebra.
Edit: from what I can understand about the formation of the Standard Model from the Lagrangian, the domain restriction which makes the elementary wavefunctions elementary is wavefunctions which evolve over time (according to EM theory) such that when viewed as particles, their motion is compatible with QM (or relativity?), and that there are only a finite number of distinct wavefunctions which are needed to span this space. Is this roughly correct?
All of quantum field theory is based on the principle of local gauge symmetry. This means that by demanding the field be invariant under the transformations of a certain mathematical framework, the interactions appear automatically (don't worry if you don't understand that, that would take more than one HN post). This is all very beautiful but the problem is that this only works for massless fields. The Higgs mechanism solves this by instead of postulating mass as an intrinsic property of a field, it supplies mass as an extrinsic property.
Technically speaking all fields are still massless, yet due to their interaction with the Higgs field, they behave as if they had mass! This is good, because we can keep our precious gauge symmetries and particles can have mass which is a very basic experimental fact. (I'm ignoring some important parts here, like symmetry breaking, but this post is already getting too long).
If no Higgs is found, either some brilliant mind must find another solution to preserve the principle of local gauge symmetries, or we must leave field theories behind and look for another solution.
I personally hope no Higgs is found, as Higgsless theories look more appealing to me. Obviously, Nature shouldn't conform to my personal aesthetic views, so if proof for Higgs is found, I will have to accept that.
I want my time travel and anti-gravity and FTL drive, at consumer prices. I want to see dinosaurs and travel around the universe in the blink of an eye. Keep working science people.
I've enjoyed pondering this stuff since the 70s when I was a child. How much I've 'gotten' it has varied over the years, but it's never been very deep.
Your description, I think, deepened my understanding a good bit.
edit: As the links are down, here they are from the Wayback Machine:
edit: Web archive to the rescue. Thank you.
So really all a Higgs boson is, is an excitation of the Higgs field.
Or does it mean that there are more Higgs fields in the world (and, thus, every particle can have a different mass depending on in which field it is) and there are therefore more Higgs bossons?
Particles get mass by "coupling" to the Higgs field. I.e. the excitations of the electron fields - electrons - interact with the excitations of the Higgs field - Higgs bosons. This, through a complicated process described by quantum field theory (that I don't admit to fully understand), gives the particle what we call mass. Different particles couple to the Higgs with different strengths, yielding various particle masses. The Higgs even couples to itself (rather incestuously), which is why it has mass!
Broadcasters with the BBC's remit need to have science programmes that are far beyond my understanding. Almost everything on the BBC can be followed by a reasonably smart 14 year old.
It's the same logic as to why there aren't any interesting TV programs about, say, programming languages, but you can find good content on Channel 9 (not really a channel :P) or Google Tech Talks.
So, on BBC radio 4 you'll have A day set aside for "Bloom's Day", heavily promoted before hand, with James Joyces' Ulysses newly dramatised and broadcast over five and a half hours, in seven slots from 9:00am to midnight; and the cross-promotional stuff.
This is a considerable amount of time and money on a well known (but little read) book. And when you hear arts items on news programmes no-one stops to patronise the audience yet anything that goes beyond very simple science on news is handled very gently, as if all the audience are idiots. I don't even mind that so much - but it's the lack of any programming at all that goes beyond the curriculum that a 15 year old would study that is problematic. Of course, there are notable exceptions, and I know that it'd be as bad or worse in other countries.
 They'll mention names of artists but not bother explaining any context; you're just expected to know that this person is a scupltor or has won some award or whatever; and you're expected to be aware of some of the main themes in their work.
Perhaps it's a fundamental difference in the two fields? For something like Renaissance art, you can get away with not knowing too much about other sorts of art; on the other hand, for any sort of even moderately serious physics, not only do you need a good grasp of related physics but you also need a strong grasp of relatively advanced mathematics.
Also, thinking about it, it seems that CS is even more underrepresented than other sciences. At the very least, you see some shows about physics and cosmology and biology, however basic. But I've never seen even a painfully basic show about CS. There are shows about robotics, but more from an engineering standpoint than a CS standpoint. Math also seems rarer than the sciences, but I recall some math shows.
Of course, I watch any sort of TV very rarely, so I have a small sample with a distinct selection bias (namely, I mostly watch what other people in my family are interested in). This bias trivially explains the disproportionate amount of art history (my mother is an art teacher) but does not explain the complete dearth of CS.
Or is it that they are not sure what they would do with it when they find it.
Further, how would this discovery affect the modern day/upcoming tech?
If Higgs boson is clearly not found where the theory predict it, then the theory is deficient and has to be seriously rethought or thrown away altogether! It would be exciting time of uncertainty, crazy ideas, and new and interesting stuff to try (like it was with quantum mechanics). Or maybe not — the new and interesting effects may lie far away from the range of masses and energies of daily life (e.g. we don't usually directly see any effects of general relativity).
It is important to note that gravity affects energy (mass-energy). This is why a compressed spring weighs more than the same spring uncompressed. A spinning ball weighs more than the same ball when it is stationary because there is more energy.
It's an important but subtle distinction that even a lot of physics professors don't quite grasp. Matt Strassler has some very good explanations of it on his page.
I want to hijack it and add....
Couple of points along the same lines that I always like to explain to people.
The familiar E=mc^2 we all know - people like to say that means that the energy in a system is equal to the mass times the speed of light (squared) - if we convert between the two. Which is true..... but it's also saying something else. In this formula, energy is measured in joules, and mass in kilogams - the speed of light in meters per second. Importantly, notice the c^2 is a constant - it's there for unit conversion. What we really have is a statement that energy=mass. Energy and Mass are the same thing.
In the same line - there's no such thing as "pure energy" (if I'm wrong, someone educate me, I'm all ears) - people have a hard time with this. Energy is a property of a system that can be calculated. "pure energy" doesn't exist. Radiation is not what we mean by "energy" (though obviously it's got energy) - energy is a property that we can calculate and work with, and a rather important one at that.... but it's not a "thing" or "stuff" or "non-stuff" that moves around... it's a property of a system that can be calculated.
Luboš Motl has a great explanation here: http://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/3014/what-is-ener...
Feynman's explanation is pretty amazing as well. I can't find the one where he gives an analogy to blocks (or something) but here is one definition he gives: http://www.phy.davidson.edu/fachome/swp/courses/PHY110/Feynm...
One interesting point to add though is that only integer spin particles (the force carrying bosons) can share quantum states, which means they can occupy the same point in space.
Another way to say that is to say the opposite, i.e. that half-integer spin particles (the fermions, which includes quarks that make protons and neutrons as well as leptons like the electron) cannot occupy the same quantum state as each other, which is manifest by them obeying the pauli exclusion principle.
So if you were to take two photons they can literally occupy the same point versus two electrons which cannot (with some exceptions noted below). They are both point particles and technically have no volume, but there is this extra rule about quantum states that prevent two electrons from sitting in precisely the same place if they share all other quantum characteristics.
Since this rule applies only if those electrons share all other quantum states, that means that if two electrons have opposite spins, they can occupy the same point in space. The first valence shell in a atom is the lowest state that an electron can have in a stable orbit (think of it as a standing wave that exactly lines up in a circle). There is 'room' for only one electron when you view the electron as a wave, but that shell can hold 2 electrons because there can be one of each spin type.
Anyway kind of long winded, but I think the exclusion principle is at the heart of what makes us intuitively think about the electron as having volume in space and a photon as not.
All this stuff is really really cool, but you can tell why physicists have that itchy sensation that there is some deeper explanation that is underneath all these rules.
They can only have "effective size" that arises due to say, electromagnetism. The electron has an effective radius that is measured by bouncing other charged "test" particles off of it. You don't get an answer of zero only because your test particles are attracted or repelled by the electron.
Mass should be thought of as something intrinsic to a particle, just like charge or spin. There's really no good way to visualize it - it's just something different particles have in different amounts.
Fun fact: One of the ways physicists are looking for Higgs is by looking for bumps in the "invariant mass" spectrum of LHC events with 2 photons!
Quantum mechanically, acceleration is a rather ill-defined quantity, so I don't know how to answer the question other than through Ehrenfest's theorem - <F> = m <a> when we're talking <averages> [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ehrenfest%27s_theorem]
Could an ant ever comprehend or even "see" a microwave oven?
Nature is what it is. We may only ever get glimpses. And a bias toward simplicity may be more a function of human limitation than some fundamental truth.
The reasoning doesn't have to be simple but there must be a pretty good explanation of why it is so complicated. Lets not forget that even Einstein thought that something must be wrong with quantum physics because it doesn't make sense.
Nature is what it is but that doesn't mean that we can't question what's happening and seek answers to every single aspect of life. That's the basis of science.
So what you're asking isn't so much "Why is nature complicated?" as "Why is nature not intuitive?". And the answer to that is simple: nature is not intuitive because intuition is a very pragmatic tool evolved to deal with the macroscopic world you inhabit; it would not make sense for it to be optimized for understanding particle physics!
Also, our understanding is simply not complete; it might turn out that there is some relatively simple underlying system and we are merely describing part of the second or third-order effects so cannot see this underlying pattern.
Would you care to explain further?
And clearly neither do I.......