Sunday, 18 December 2011

H is the "God" Particle? Really?


This blog entry was triggered this morning by a FaceBook message, which basically stated: "Trying to find God by smashing up atoms is a male idea. God can only be approached and found by Love".
Now there is so much wrong with the first statement that I am sort of hesitant to begin correcting it. Yet I will. There is also a lot to be said about the second statement, but that will have to wait.

First foremost I should declare that the term "God Particle" to refer to the Higgs boson is something that I do not support at all, in fact, I detest it. Anyone who is capable of using the Internet will be able to easily find out that, originally, the phrase was the "Goddamn particle". Because the thing is so elusive, so difficult fo find, yet so crucially important for the integrity of the Standard Model. It HAS to be there, yet we can't find the goddamn thing! But long live religious sensitivities, which have now given us the ridiculous term "God Particle". As if the Divine Creator in his Infinite Wisdom has not created all the particles, fields and what have you as Divine entities, just this one.

What is this  Higgs boson? Just a quantum of a field particle physics needs in order to explain why some particles acquire mass and some do not. The underlying mechanism is called 'spontaneous symmetry breaking' and what happens has been compared with a picture of particles travelling in a kind of molasses: some are retained, while others are not.

Back to the issue at hand: I personally fail to see why this particle should receive such a special status in people's minds. But that does not stop the so-called 'spiritually inclined' from embracing this whole idea and accordingly derive the most ludicrous "theories" from it. I refrain from delving too much into this particular area, as there is a certain limit to the amount of nonsense I can handle.

"Ignorance is bliss", as the saying goes, but the ignorance lying at the core of the statement above is also coupled to a piece of male bashing, which I think is wrong. Yet by itself the statement is blatantly wrong as well. Because nobody's bashing or smashing up atoms (it's protons and antiprotons) and if anyone does, it's not to find God, but to look for a missing piece of the Universe called the Higgs boson.  And if the person who wrote this really was paying attention, it would have been noticed that one of the presenters and lead scientist of last week's LHC results was -in fact- a woman, called Professor Fabiola Gianotti. A peculiarly male idea, right?

So, please, let's first get rid of that stupid misnomer "God Particle" and call it by its proper name: Higgs boson. Hope we'll find it unambiguously really soon!

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