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The Higgs Boson Explained (Well, Almost)

From vimeo.com via Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Oxford

On our last day away we visited Oxford.

You can overdose on mediƦvality there but you can’t go to Oxford and not photograph this if you see it. (The van does kind of ruin it though.)

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford, Oxfordshire

On a wall in High Street, Oxford, I noticed this plaque.

Boyle & Hooke Plaque, Oxford, Oxfordshire

It commemorates Robert Hooke, he of the eponymous law on elasticity, and Robert Boyle who formulated the Gas Law and was the first to use the word cell in connection with living things.

I didn’t stumble on Oxford’s War Memorial but there was some stunning Art Deco (to come in a later post.)

The Higgs Field

I’m not a physicist so I can’t pretend to understand subatomic particles in any but a superficial way but now that some evidence from the Large Hadron Collider has been adduced for the Higgs boson I must confess it seems a bit weird.

Now, all subatomic physics is weird – solid objects are >99.99% empty space, they can behave like waves and like particles simultaneously, they seem to be in instantaneous communcation with each other all over the universe – but the action of the Higgs boson seems to be dependent on a field dragging on certain kinds of particles. Well such fields are fine, I can conceptualise magnetic, electrical and gravitational fields easily enough, but when I first heard it explained to me the Higgs field did seem to me to sound a bit like the 19th century concept of the luminiferous aether, long since discarded in favour of relativity and quantum theory.

If the Higgs is found to exist, fine, there’s another field to add to the list.

If it doesn’t, though, that’s a whole potentially more exciting new ball game.

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