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Inside the Higgs boson discovery

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From Columbia mathematician Peter Woit’s blog, on anew book that details the discovery of the Higgs boson (CERN physicist Jon Butterworth’s Smashing Physics):

For readers who know nothing about the physics involved, this book may not be the right place to start, with the well-known scientific story not getting a detailed treatment, and little in the way of graphics besides some Feynman diagrams. On the other hand, if you’ve read one of the other books about the Higgs, Butterworth takes you a lot deeper into the subject of LHC physics, including some extensive material on his work on boosted objects and jet substructure, which may lead to important results in future LHC analyses. If you like your science non-abstract and human, this is a great place to learn about the Higgs discovery story.

If Woit likes the book, it probably scores low on the crackpot index. Might be a good choice.

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5 Replies to “Inside the Higgs boson discovery

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    A few semi related notes:

    Now I wouldn’t know my way around higher mathematics if my life depended on it, but I’ve heard said that mathematicians depend on a ‘sense of beauty’ so as to intuitively know whether an equation may be truthful or not.

    “It appears that the Creator shares the mathematicians’ sense of beauty.”
    – Alexander Vilenkin

    In fact, Paul Dirac, using such a ‘sense of beauty’ in mathematics, made a successful mathematical prediction for the existence of the ‘anti-election’, i.e. positron.

    Graham Farmelo on Paul Dirac and Mathematical Beauty – video (28:12 minute mark – prediction of the ‘anti-electron’)

    Although I could not find a direct quote from Dirac, It seems readily apparent from a Dyson quote I found that Peter Higgs must have used the same method as Dirac (i.e. a ‘sense of beauty’) for his mathematical prediction of the Higgs Boson, decades before it was discovered,,,

    How the hunt for the Higgs boson began – Nov. 2010
    Excerpt: Higgs collected his papers and, step by step, took the audience through his theory. Dyson listened intently. He thought Higgs’s work was beautiful.

    Of related note: Dr. Craig uses the mathematical prediction of the Higg’s boson as a philosophical proof for Theism.

    Mathematics and Physics – A Happy Coincidence? – Dr. Craig – video

    1. If God did not exist the applicability of mathematics would be a happy coincidence.
    2. The applicability of mathematics is not a happy coincidence.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    Of related interest to this ‘sense of mathematical beauty’ guiding mathematical discovery, is that such a ‘sense of beauty’ also led to the recent discovery of the Amplituhedron:

    The Amplituhedron (21:12 minute mark) – Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. – video

    But where this ‘sense of beauty’ in mathematics seems to break down is with string theory, and m-theory (perennial thorns in the side for Woit):

    The part of the book (‘The Trouble With Physics’) I found most interesting was the part which tells how the string theorists were scammed by Nature (or Mathematics). Of course, Smolin doesn’t put it exactly like this, but imagine the following conversation.———
    String theorists: We’ve got the Standard Model, and it works great, but it doesn’t include gravity, and it doesn’t explain lots of other stuff, like why all the elementary particles have the masses they do. We need a new, broader theory.
    Nature: Here’s a great new theory I can sell you. It combines quantum field theory and gravity, and there’s only one adjustable parameter in it, so all you have to do is find the right value of that parameter, and the Standard Model will pop right out.
    String theorists: We’ll take it.
    String theorists (some time later): Wait a minute, Nature, our new theory won’t fit into our driveway. String theory has ten dimensions, and our driveway only has four.
    Nature: I can sell you a Calabi-Yau manifold. These are really neat gadgets, and they’ll fold up string theory into four dimensions, no problem.
    String theorists: We’ll take one of those as well, please.
    Nature: Happy to help.
    String theorists (some time later): Wait a minute, Nature, there’s too many different ways to fold our Calabi-Yao manifold up. And it keeps trying to come unfolded. And string theory is only compatible with a negative cosmological constant, and we own a positive one.
    Nature: No problem. Just let me tie this Calabi-Yao manifold up with some strings and branes, and maybe a little duct tape, and you’ll be all set.
    String theorists: But our beautiful new theory is so ugly now!
    Nature: Ah! But the Anthropic Principle says that all the best theories are ugly.
    String theorists: It does?
    Nature: It does. And once you make it the fashion to be ugly, you’ll ensure that other theories will never beat you in beauty contests.
    String theorists: Hooray! Hooray! Look at our beautiful new theory.
    ———- Okay, I’ve taken a few liberties here. But according to Smolin’s book, string theory did start out looking like a very promising theory. And, like a scam, as it looks less and less promising, it’s hard to resist the temptation to throw good money (or research) after bad in the hope of getting something back for your effort.

    A Capella Science – Bohemian Gravity! – video

    Also of interest, ‘The argument from beauty’ is a Theistic argument:

    Aesthetic Arguments for the Existence of God:
    Excerpt: Beauty,,, can be appreciated only by the mind. This would be impossible, if this `idea’ of beauty were not found in the mind in a more perfect form.

    Though the following article is somewhat technical, it is almost comical to read how every approach, in which the materialists tried to reduce the subjective sense of beauty to a mere material mechanism, was thwarted.

    Beauty Evades the Clutches of Materialism – March 27, 2013

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    also of interest to the Higgs discovery

    The Higgs Paradox: A Phenomenal Finding Leads To Many More Questions – June 23rd, 2014 | by Michael Keller
    Excerpt: Discovering the Higgs boson plugs a large hole in the standard model, the highly tested theory that shows all matter is made of a number of elementary particles that interact through four fundamental forces—strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational forces. Together, these comprise everything we currently understand about matter.
    “The standard model provides a consistent explanation of the subatomic world,” said Jonathan Bagger,,, “The Higgs boson is at the center of the model. It’s the linchpin. But there’s plenty of the universe that the standard model doesn’t address.”
    In fact, all of the stuff that the standard model explains represents only 4.9 percent of the universe. Dark matter, which physicists and astronomers can’t actually detect with their instruments, makes up 26.8 percent of the universe, and a whopping 68.3 percent is composed of dark energy, a hypothesized form of energy that is also currently undetectable.,,,
    (Moreover),The Higgs particle itself is outside the (standard) model. When its mass is plugged in, Bagger says, the picture goes wonky and the math says that quantum fluctuations over time should destroy the universe. “There are several options to fix the math, but none of them are within the standard model,” he says.

  3. 3
    VunderGuy says:


    Would you say that the Higgs-Boson is part of the steps necessary to reduce gravity to a form of particle radiation like electromagnetic and the two nuclear forces since it is supposedly a particle that gives other particles their mass and mass is essential to gravity?

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Vunderguy, I’m certainly not qualified to answer such a technical question, all I can do is repeat what was stated in the cite I referenced:

    “(Moreover),The Higgs particle itself is outside the (standard) model. When its mass is plugged in, Bagger says, the picture goes wonky and the math says that quantum fluctuations over time should destroy the universe. “There are several options to fix the math, but none of them are within the standard model,” he says.”

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    Relativity, Expansion, and the Speed of Light

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