What Does it Mean? – Talking Higgs

So, what the heck is a Higgs Boson? No, there is no such thing as finding God in a particle, but it does explain something integral to both the string theory and the standard model.

First off, if you have no idea of what I’m talking about, here is a quick guide.


Secondly, Kat Bat sent me a terrible joke. I love it so I am foisting it off on all of you.

The Higgs boson sees this long line to get into a cathedral, and decides to try sneaking in the back instead. He makes his way through the back, and comes out at the front of the huge sanctuary. And everyone in the pews is staring at him! So he leans over to an alter boy and asks, “Why is everyone staring at me?”

The alter boy replies, “They’re expecting you to give mass.”

Ok, so Pop Science and Physics Jokes aside. What does it Mean?
Some people have said that using a supercollider to look into particles is like studying car wrecks to figure out Volkswagens. A closer metaphor is that it is like throwing rocks at a guitar to figure out music. Each of these … bosons …. are just resonances. Energy likes to be in packets of this size. 

For the basically science away, I can get a lot deeper.
When you run electricity through a gas, you are throwing electrons at each other. Much like a super collider. You could call it a mini-super-collider. The electrons tend to be bound at specific energies, which tend to result is specific colors of light, or x-rays. Mercury, Krypton, Neon, Hydrogen, Oxygen. I’ve run currents through those and a few others. They make spectra you can see…and measure. The peaks on your spectrometer are the places energy … likes to gather. Yes, there is an explanation for this behavior, taught in High School and college. Energy Levels. Each Electron is bound to an Energy level, is knocked off, you have characteristic energy emissions.

For the scientist, I can get a bit deeper.
When you throw neutrons at a nucleus, you cause the emission of a characteristic x-ray. This is because the neutrons and protons in the middle of an atom have the same kinds of characteristic energy levels that the electrons in the outer regions do. The energy difference is a factor of a thousand, more or less, but the size difference between the electron cloud and the neutron cloud is closer to a factor of a hundred thousand. 
The Franck-Hertz Experiment
So, to play with quarks and bosons, they increased the energy by another factor of a thousand, hoping to look at the energy structure that binds the parts of protons and neutrons. If you imagine that neutrons and protons are made up of a cloud of excited particles, just like the nucleus and the electron cloud surrounding it, you may have a view of what the scientists are doing.

Hopefully, pounding particles together are giving them the energy structure of the … pieces parts … inside the neutron, proton, etc. Somehow, one of those energy levels looks like mass. Yeah, I don’t really know how that part works. I guess that if I did I could start writing my acceptance speech for my Nobel prize.

In fact, I really do think they are on the wrong track. Electron levels don’t “cause” chemical reactions. They interact in specific ways which appears to be chemistry from the outside. Neutron interactions have to do with filled and empty levels, much like chemical interactions. The structure of the quark leads to color/flavor/etc – but there isn’t a specific energy level that “causes” that behavior. Where you apply the energy causes more charge vs. more mass vs. more … other undefinable attribute.

We hardly understand electron shells, we don’t understand neutron shells, and the concept of quark shells is crazy-talk, still. We know there isn’t a particle – phonon, there isn’t a particle – graviton. There isn’t a particle – Higgs. It just fits the chart and lets them wander down some odd roads a few more years. In a hundred years, this will all make less sense than Alchemy, but the path of science frequently takes it through strange pastures. For now, we are tipping Bosons and running away.


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