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‘I god nothing’


The elusive search for the god particle seems to becoming more elusive or less elusive depending on how you define elusive.

See, this all started on paper.

Missing Higgs

A major breakthrough in particle physics came in the 1970s when physicists realized that there are very close ties between two of the four fundamental forces – namely, the weak force and the electromagnetic force. The two forces can be described within the same theory, which forms the basis of the Standard Model. This ‘unification’ implies that electricity, magnetism, light and some types of radioactivity are all manifestations of a single underlying force called, unsurprisingly, the electroweak force. But in order for this unification to work mathematically, it requires that the force-carrying particles have no mass. We know from experiments that this is not true, so physicists Peter Higgs, Robert Brout and François Englert came up with a solution to solve this conundrum.

They suggested that all particles had no mass just after the Big Bang. As the Universe cooled and the temperature fell below a critical value, an invisible force field called the ‘Higgs field’ was formed together with the associated ‘Higgs boson’. The field prevails throughout the cosmos: any particles that interact with it are given a mass via the Higgs boson. The more they interact, the heavier they become, whereas particles that never interact are left with no mass at all.

This idea provided a satisfactory solution and fitted well with established theories and phenomena. The problem is that no one has ever observed the Higgs boson in an experiment to confirm the theory. Finding this particle would give an insight into why particles have certain mass, and help to develop subsequent physics. The technical problem is that we do not know the mass of the Higgs boson itself, which makes it more difficult to identify. Physicists have to look for it by systematically searching a range of mass within which it is predicted to exist. The yet unexplored range is accessible using the Large Hadron Collider, which will determine the existence of the Higgs boson. If it turns out that we cannot find it, this will leave the field wide open for physicists to develop a completely new theory to explain the origin of particle mass.

Since the theory was espoused, physicists have been out to find that particle with no mass. What does this mean? A particle with no mass? Hell. What is a particle?

Well a particle is defined as any localised object that has volume and mass. It also depends on scale. For example a grain of sand compared to the beach can be considered a particle due to its size compared to the collection of all sand in that area. Of course, when compared to something much smaller then a grain of sand, the grain of sand no longer becomes a particle.

The thing about particles though is they exhibit similar behaviour to certain forces such as gravity and acceleration. The same concept of Brownian motion exhibited in say a spoonful of sugar mixed in a glass of water exhibits the same behaviour as the stars and planets in the universe and the same behaviour your blood operates as does the gas exchange of your lungs.

Three different views of Brownian motion, with 32 steps, 256 steps, and 2048 steps denoted by progressively lighter colors

So the concept of a particle that has NO mass is very intriguing. It would, if found, be the physics equivalent of the missing link. It would or rather could explain why some stuff defies the ‘laws of physics’ and still be behaving to those laws.

Now last year I quibbed this post: What ever you do, do NOT buy a 3D TV!

I advise you to brush up and sit through the videos in that post.

Okay! I hope you reviewed! So if string theory theorises multiple dimensions (other than three), and even proposes that gravity might come from another dimension and ‘leaks’ through to our dimension, then what affect, if any, would gravity have on a particle with no mass. I bet some of you are wishing you reviewed now! Okay. Cause I’m nice.

Secret dimensions

In everyday life, we inhabit a space of three dimensions – a vast ‘cupboard’ with height, width and depth, well known for centuries. Less obviously, we can consider time as an additional, fourth dimension, as Einstein famously revealed. But just as we are becoming more used to the idea of four dimensions, some theorists have made predictions wilder than even Einstein had imagined.

String theory intriguingly suggests that six more dimensions exist, but are somehow hidden from our senses. They could be all around us, but curled up to be so tiny that we have never realized their existence.

Beyond the third dimension

Some string theorists have taken this idea further to explain a mystery of gravity that has perplexed physicists for some time – why is gravity so much weaker than the other fundamental forces? Does its carrier, the graviton, exist and where? The idea is that we do not feel gravity’s full effect in the everyday world. Gravity may appear weak only because its force is being shared with other spatial dimensions.

To find out whether these ideas are just products of wild imaginations or an incredible leap in understanding will require experimental evidence. But how?

High-energy experiments could prise open the inconspicuous dimensions just enough to allow particles to move between the normal 3D world and other dimensions. This could be manifest in the sudden disappearance of a particle into a hidden dimension, or the unexpected appearance of a particle in an experiment. Who knows where such a discovery could lead!

Newton posed that F=ma or force = mass times acceleration. But if mass was ZERO, then the force of Higgs Boson particle would be zero.  And that is one of the big problems with the search for the particle. That is whatever forces it exhibits would be zero, therefore it can theoretically exist and yet have no affect on the physical world. The same would happen if you apply E=mc^2 to an object with no mass.

So wait! If this thing has no mass and therefore produce no energy and no force, how in blazes are we supposed to see it! That is exactly how! That is if you fire off a particle with no mass in a mass accelerator, you should get nothing. Absolutely nothing. No force. No energy. At least, not in this dimension. So that is EXACTLY what they are looking for.


Any other result would mean the particle had some mass. Basically, the search could be called a search for the sound of one particle clapping.

Of course you also are dealing with as small a particle as possible. We know that particles have a tendency to react in predictable ways. So when the scientists see things behaving in a different way, then they know they are getting close.

For example, a totally unexpected result was with acceleration of neutrinos to exceed the speed of light. Neutrinos have a very very very teeny weeny itsy bitsy mass. Some call it as close to zero as possible. But it is not a Higgs Boson particle. And while the whole neutrino thing has little to do with the Higgs Boson search, the experiments on it indicate the problem the scientists have. You see, one of the biggest problem that is happening is with UFOs!

No. Not the ET go home variety. UFO’s in this case are unidentified falling objects. Particles that are so so so so so small and would normally have little effect on a particle with mass, seem to be a brick wall for particles of little to no mass.

UFOs Causing Problems at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

UFOs or ‘Unidentified Falling Objects’ have apparently been causing problems in the form of mysterious rapid beam dumps at the Large Hadron Collidor (LHC). It is not yet known definitely what is causing these UFOs and even exactly what they are. One as yet unproven hypothesis is that they are dust particles falling into the beam path and triggering a beam dump. Studies have shown they occur primarily at the injection points shortly after injection, often but not always creating problems before the LHC beams have become stable.

What does this all mean? What are we actually doing when we make two particles collide? Are we in fact sending the equivalent of unmanned space probes into another dimension? And what happens if they come back???

Well the smart folks at CERN plan to release their data to the world shortly. Have we been able see the face of God in a particle, or was it all just an unidentified falling object? Will this unlock the secrets, or only lock them away in a smaller object?

From → Science

One Comment
  1. Jennifer Baratta permalink

    Thanks Ash. more confused now Nova on PBS and through the wormhole with Morgan Freeman on Science Channel explains this as well.

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