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John Horgan: Finding the Higgs “doesn’t take us any closer to a unified theory … “


In “If You Want More Higgs Hype, Don’t Read This Column” (Scientific American, July 4, 2012), John Horgan offers an interesting perspective on the Higgs hunt’s outcome:

Our best theory of gravity is still general relativity, which does not mesh mathematically with the quantum field theories that comprise the Standard Model. Over the past few decades, theorists have become increasingly obsessed with finding a unified theory, a “theory of everything” that wraps all of nature’s forces into one tidy package. Hearing all the hoopla about the Higgs, the public might understandably assume that it represents a crucial step toward a unified theory–and perhaps at least tentative confirmation of the existence of strings, branes, hyperspaces, multiverses and all the other fantastical eidolons that Kaku, Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene and other unification enthusiasts tout in their bestsellers.

But the Higgs doesn’t take us any closer to a unified theory than climbing a tree would take me to the Moon. As I’ve pointed out previously, string theory, loop-space theory and other popular candidates for a unified theory postulate phenomena far too minuscule to be detected by any existing or even conceivable (except in a sci-fi way) experiment. Obtaining the kind of evidence of a string or loop that we have for, say, the top quark would require building an accelerator as big as the Milky Way.

See also: The Higgs boson (the God particle) is more relevant than God?

The God particle: The cavalry arrived but SUSY wasn’t there.

When is poor old intuition going to break down before an impenetrable wall of mystery (paradoxes are mysteries, confused atheists); and finally, poor old reason find itself in the dog-house, too. Counter-rationality and counter-intuitiveness are going to find they have so much in common. A happy ending after all. What, after all is nescience among friends? Axel

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