Wednesday, July 4, 2012

     Happy 4th of July, and Happy Higgs Boson Day!  I am excited that the Higgs Boson has been found, so now particle physicists can start testing the Standard Model.  I am also impressed by the publicity machine of CERN- the leaked videos, bringing Peter Higgs to the lab a few days in advance to help build the buzz...  I wish I could have been around during the Space Race, just to compare.
     While the Large Hadron Collider is cool, I do wonder if the results are worth the approximately 5 billion pounds used on it.  I guess the appeal is that the existence of the Higgs Boson is not a political issue, and given that the world did not become a massive black hole, hardly anyone is complaining about the implications of the project.  Everyone involved also has a huge incentive to carefully create publicity about it, including all of the people who are knowledgeable about the subject (i.e. particle physicists, who want funding to continue and expand, and science writers, whose job is to make science seem exciting and newsworthy).  However, to some degree, the search for the Higgs Boson seems like a distraction from issues that need to be addressed in the nearer future.  For instance, climate change is scarily making irreversible changes to global environments, and it seems unlikely that advances in unifying theories in physics will have any impact on that problem.  The Higgs Boson problem seems so much simpler- the only questions that have been answered are, "Does it exist?" and "At what energy?".  If only all of our questions were that simple and uncontroversial.

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