Concerning CERN: Cliff Burgess on the discovery of the Higgs boson

Jul 16, 2012 By Matt Terry

(Phys.org) -- If you’re a little confused by the news that scientists at the European Organization  for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, may have found the Higgs boson, you’re  probably not alone. Theoretical particle physics isn’t the easiest topic to understand.

With the help of Cliff Burgess, himself a theoretical particle physicist and professor of  physics and astronomy who has spent time working at CERN, we attempt to better  understand the organization’s findings.

In layman’s terms, can you explain what exactly has been discovered at CERN?

They have found the first experimental evidence for the existence of a new elementary  particle, the , which seems to verify a radical theoretical proposal that was  made back in the 1960s.

Normally we think of the vacuum as just being the thing that has nothing in it. But Peter  Higgs, and others, proposed instead that the vacuum is a physical thing which has  physical properties, with which can interact. There is an energy  associated with this interaction, which we interpret as the particle mass due to Einstein’s  relation E=m c^2.

At CERN they have just provided the first experimental evidence that this picture of the  vacuum having physical properties is right. They did so by exciting a wave in the  vacuum, which in their experiment looks like a new type of particle.

Can you elaborate on just what the so-called “God particle” is?

First off, everybody in the business calls it the Higgs particle and cringes just a bit when  it is called the “God particle”. What makes it important is that it shows that there are  waves in the vacuum.

You can think of the whole picture as an analogy where elementary particles are  replaced by fish.

Suppose you were interested in the properties of fish and how they move and why some  fish move faster than others given the same amount of effort. This would be very hard if  you did not understand what water was.

In order to understand properly the motion of fish, you must first also understand the  environment through which they move.

Now, those who study fish never doubted the existence of water because, unlike the  fish, scientists do not live in it. If you were the first to propose that water existed, it  might be a harder sell since everyone would take it for granted. The acid test would be  to move the water, or to excite a water wave, since that would show that there was  something “there” besides just fish.

So the radical theoretical proposal is that we are all moving through a medium, and it is  the properties of this medium that partially control the behaviour of elementary  particles. Again the acid test is to perturb the vacuum and excite a wave in it. This is  what the experiments at CERN seem to have done for the very first time.

Why is this discovery important?

It is important because the assertion that the vacuum has physical properties is a very  radical idea.

We have a very successful theory called the Standard Model, which has a particular take  about what the vacuum’s properties are. But there are other theories as well, and these  differ on what the vacuum is like, and so also differ about what kinds of waves (or Higgs  particles) can be excited.

Having discovered these waves, we can now explore their properties to see which of  these theories is right.

Will this change anything for the average person?

In some ways, the experiments that found the Higgs already have. One of the challenges  the experimenters faced in the early 1990s was how to plan to analyze all of the data  that this experiment would produce.

To solve it, scientists at CERN (building on the previously built internet) developed the  world wide web as a simple way for experimenters to deal with data around the world,  just by clicking on things with a mouse. It is this software that made the internet into  something the public could use, and has transformed our lives ever since.

As always with curiosity-driven science, it is very difficult to know what the spin-offs  will be before they arise.

Probably the most important spin-off we do know about is people. The economy is full  of people with mathematical problem-solving skills, from mathematical bankers to  computer programmers and engineers. Many of these learned these skills because they  were drawn by the cool ideas in particle physics (or astronomy or other areas of  mathematical sciences). These people have a huge impact on our everyday lives because  they are of huge value to the economy as a whole.

Where does this rank in terms of scientific discovery?

Experimental evidence that the vacuum has physical properties is among the biggest  discoveries we can have. Unfortunately, this is not the reason most of the media convey  when they provide the attention. So I would say the attention is justified, but the media  is not doing a very good job explaining why.

Will your own research be impacted by CERN’s findings?

I have my own theory for what the is like, and so have predictions for what the  CERN experiments should be seeing over the next few years. Most of my work involves  exploring the implications of this theory, both for CERN experiments and for cosmology  (the history of the universe as a whole).    So far my theory is doing pretty well (in my opinion), so things are looking good!

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TS1
1 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2012
What makes it important is that it shows that there are waves in the vacuum.
[...]
So the radical theoretical proposal is that we are all moving through a medium, and it is the properties of this medium that partially control the behaviour of elementary particles. Again the acid test is to perturb the vacuum and excite a wave in it.


So that means we never left the idea of the ether. I guess there was something wrong with the Michelson-Morley experiment?
javjav
5 / 5 (8) Jul 16, 2012
The ether is an obsolete idea, it was based on the assumption that light requires a medium to propagate (wrong), and on the assumption that this medium is made of a physical substance which defines an absolute reference frame (wrong) with a favorite direction (wrong) and thus a "real time" (wrong).

The Higgs field is a radically different concept than ether. It is an scalar field with no preferred direction, no absolute time (thus compatible with Einstein theories), and it is made of energy waves, not matter. In addition it can explain how matter form, which is not possible with ether (which is already defined as a form of matter). I would not define the Higgs field as "a kind of ether".
Nodrog
not rated yet Jul 16, 2012
I found this article very interesting and I feel it gave me a better understanding of the Higgs field than other articles which I've read.

It led me to wonder that if the vacuum is now conceded to have measurable properties whether or not these properties may contribute towards solutions of other cosmological problems such as dark matter and dark energy.

While the steady state theory has long been discredited is it beyond the realms of possibility that the properties of the vacuum as expressed by the Higgs field may be a factor in the micro-wave radiation that seems to permeate space almost uniformly?

Apologies in advance if these are stupid ideas (I'm not a physicist!), but I'd be grateful for some feedback on these thoughts, and if wrong, why so.
TS1
Jul 17, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
gralp
2 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2012
Neither the Higgs field, nor the CMB are ethers as originally conceived, despite both are kind of mediums we are immersed in, for as javjav noted above, light does not require either of them to propagate through (it even makes up the latter). Higgs could be called a "relativistic ether" for its lack of preferred frame but this sounds a bit like oxymoron, thus physicists avoid the term. On the other hand CMB evidently sets a local preferred frame, however similarly preferred is the center of the solar system, or the Milky Way, or just any suitably stable reference.
Satene
Jul 17, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Satene
Jul 17, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2012
"real time".

It is interesting that some of the pre-quantum relativistic concepts comes back in altered manner. As gralp notes, the CMB gives a universal preferred spatial frame and similarly expansion (including its effect on CMB density and photon energy) gives a universal preferred time frame.

The latter is heavily modified by quantum effects though. As I understand it, decoherence collapses entanglement by way of a lightcone, as photons are the fastest objects that can decohere. Decoherence obeys relativity.

This means any existing entanglement locally prevents the advancement of the universal expansion clock until decoherence happens. At which point the affected lightcone starts to catch up.

It fuzzifies the expansion clock, which geometry will look like an inverted spike mat as it goes. Since entanglement generally decoheres fast, we won't expect to see much of that outside the lab though.

Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
[cont.] As a note, I believe I understand why decoherence has no problem with the receding cosmological horizon. It will redshift any signals out of observability (too little energy).

So the observation of expansion clock and lightcones will become irrelevant at the same time as the lightcones no longer will be able to catch up with expansion. The horizon is set on "fade". =D

@ Satene:

Aether theory is rejected on the grounds javjav mentioned. It happened over 100 years ago, because aether conflicts with observation and now relativity. You can verify by looking it up in Wikipedia, say.

And there is no such thing as "the" aether model. It was a loose theoretical idea, because people pre-quantum couldn't understand how waves acted without a media. Then came quantum mechanics and with it the media-less wavefunction.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2012
I was a bit fuzzy myself above. I meant that the signals from decoherence, when it has collapsed entanglement, will spread relativistically.

@ Nodrog:

To ask questions is not stupid, and giving context is helpful for answering.

- Indeed, the simplest prediction resulting in observed dark energy is vacuum energy.

DE so far seems to have constant density over time. And the simplest prediction for a corresponding cosmological constant in the equations describing the standard cosmology spacetime curvature would be on the matterenergy side, as a constant for the vacuum as is, without matter. (Einstein originally put it on the spacetime side.)
Satene
1 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
It is interesting that some of the pre-quantum relativistic concepts comes back in altered manner.
The evolution works in circles in similar way, like the waves scatter cyclically between transverse and longitudinal waves in particle environment. The aether/plenum was old Greek concept originally until the term "vacuum" i.e. the "emptiness" was coined. Later Descartes (1647), Hooke and Huygens (1678) reviewed the aether model again - but the authority of Isaac Newton forced people to believe in empty space and particle character of light. At the beginning of 19th century Young revealed wave character of light and Maxwell his dense fluid model of aether. The relativity and quantum mechanics theories replaced the aether model for another century and now the aether model is returning back into physics again.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2012
[cont]

- In a rundabout way, the Higgs field helps with our understanding of the cosmic microwave background (CMB).

The Higgs field is our first universal scalar field. I.e. it has a constant value everywhere.

Something similar could be the case for inflation, the rapid expansion that happened first in the standard cosmology. (Then known as an "inflaton" field AFAIK.) That expansion would have blown up small quantum fluctuations in the field itself, which ended up as the seeds for denser dark and standard matter aggregates of galactic clusters.

And the same fluctuations made their imprint in the CMB. The example of higgs could point to the details of physics of inflation.
Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
5 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
Satana, this is a physics blog, not a place for crackpot "physics" claim that confuses laymen about the science.

Aether is in conflict with both relativity and quantum mechanics, vacuum is not but supported by both precisely as your link points out. For over 100 years and counting, universities have been bombarded with crackpot suggestions that relativity and quantum mechanics are wrong or suggestions that they have loopholes. But it has never been born out.

On the other hand professional scientists has been working on extensions as physics is not complete. But that is hard work, not a crackpot pattern search for old physics "common sense" ideas, but actual physics.

So if you have any ideas, by all means if you can get some journal to send it to peer review and get it published, we can look at it as a serious suggestion. Until then, there are crackpot sites for crackpots.

But I wouldn't hold my breath (on either getting publicized or abstaining from trolling science sites :-/).
vlaaing peerd
5 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2012
[quote]...and Huygens (1678) reviewed the aether model again - but the authority of Isaac Newton forced people to believe...[\quote]

You are abusing a historical fact that Huygens had good reason to believe light was made of waves vs Newton's particles, but since Newton was the greater authority abroad, nobody believed Huygens wave theory of light.
Huygens was a partially correct about light being waves, which was proven over a century later, he was however completely wrong it needed an ether to travel through. So don't use it as a story for your ether theory.

But you're one of those guys that on every matter-related articly you need to start AWT rants. Really no, ether theory is not going to be revived again, except perhaps in your own mind.
Satene
1 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
ether theory is not going to be revived again
I'm not promoting crackpot ideas, I'm quoting prof. Frank Wilczek, a Nobel price laureate (1994). Why we should believe just you?
he was however completely wrong it needed an ether to travel through
Do you have a better explanation for the existence of Higgs field and light waves, after then? The only formal description we have is aether based anyway (Maxwell's theory). I'm opened to alternatives, but you're providing none of them.
Satene
Jul 17, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
javjav
5 / 5 (4) Jul 17, 2012
Maxwell's theory is aether based


Wrong.

Maxwell also believed in aether, but aether was not necessary for his theory (although he didn't knew it).

First, his aether model was falsified experimentally by the MichelsonMorley experiment.

Later Einstein demonstrated that aether was not necessary for Maxwell equations to work, as he explained in special relativity theory.

Why you insist in coming back to wrong theories that have already been falsified and corrected?
Satene
Jul 17, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Satene
1 / 5 (1) Jul 17, 2012
Try to think about it: if the Maxwell's model would be disproved with negative result of M-M experiment, then Lorentz and later Feynman couldn't use the very same model for the DERIVATION of the constant speed of light and for explanation of the negative result of M-M experiment. It's very simple logics, which is difficult to beat.
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
Sub: Keep Open end approach- Cosmology needs best of brains trust.
In my books-Plasma vision of the Universe [1993] and Plasma Regulated Electromagnetic {PREM]Universe[1995] , a number of feasible Vortex Processing-include Dual Mode Magnetic Vortex Process [DMVT] have been highlighted along with Waves [see Waveguides] as part of Processing. All these are simple structures that can be carried in Labs and do not need high budgets. This type of approach accommodates Space-baby Concepts, bio-Energy Aura and New models for Universe and Multi-Universe concepts.Field Aligned flows automatically bend to help understand Cosmos Yoga. Dimensional Science through Cosmology Vedas interlinks is at your door-step.Request create Cosmology Chairs and Interact.Promote Spirit of Science on a healthy Ground mats.
http://vidyardhic...ion.html
javjav
5 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
Only longitudinal waves are dragged with environment, when this environment is moving. But the light is known to move in transverse waves
This does not match circular polarization (3D propagation) experiments
the relativity doesn't explain, why the light is spreading in waves
Quantum mechanics do it
The constant speed of light is a postulate in relativity theory, i.e. the ad-hoced assumption which is accepted without deeper reasoning
It started as a postulate, but Einstein theory has been demonstrated experimentally. "c" constant is not a magic number, it is the factor of energy / mass conversion factor in E=mc^2, and it has been measured in the whole observable universe. From the biggest time and space scales at most distant supernovas to the smallest scales at particle accelerators, and in all human made conversion devices, from nuclear fission to nuclear fusion, from Hiroshima to Fukushima. Your post is what can not be accepted without deeper reasoning
Satene
1 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
..this does not match circular polarization (3D propagation) experiments..
Because we aren't living at the 2D water surface but inside of hyperdimensional quantum foam. The foam can be elastic in all thinkable directions, including the interior of its bubbles. So if we introduce some periodical torsion deform into it, then these torsion vibrations would propagate at distance in the same way, like simple compression wave or vibration along plane. The plain water surface has not enough of degree of freedom degree to demonstrate more complex motion.

The foam model can explain the existence of two components of electromagnetic field, for example. If we compress the foam in one direction, then the foam will expand in perpendicular direction like block of jelly, thus mimicking the mutual propagation of electrostatic and electromagnetic field components of electromagnetic wave: you cannot change the electric field without change of magnetic field and vice-versa.
ant_oacute_nio354
1 / 5 (4) Jul 17, 2012
Higgs doesn't exist.
The mass is the electric dipole moment.

Antonio Saraiva
TS1
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 17, 2012
I posted a "thank you" message to "javjav" for explaining the difference between the "Higgs field" and the ether to me, and physorg deleted it and claimed it was "Pointless verbiage".

But yet they allow people to call others "tard"-this and "tard"-that on this site. What a bunch of morons. Yes this name-calling is now intentional, as I do hope that those d*heads running this site will close my account altogether. That will save me a few clicks of effort.
TS1
3 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2012
Of course perhaps they want name-calling. Crap.
vacuum-mechanics
1 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2012
Normally we think of the vacuum as just being the thing that has nothing in it. But Peter Higgs, and others, proposed instead that the vacuum is a physical thing which has physical properties, with which elementary particles can interact. There is an energy associated with this interaction, which we interpret as the particle mass due to Einsteins relation E=m c^2.

It seems that some people do not like some physical thing such as aehter which filled vacuum space; may be it would be better if we think of vacuum medium which is vacuum space itself, explained below.

http://www.vacuum...mid=9=en
vlaaing peerd
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 18, 2012
[quote] I'm not promoting crackpot ideas, I'm quoting prof. Frank Wilczek, a Nobel price laureate (1994). Why we should believe just you? [\quote]

Mr Wilczek explains there is similarity between field theory and ether. That's different than field = ether.

There is nothing from my side to believe in as I did not make any scientific statement about the composition of our universe. I merely stated that your reasoning is flawed by argumentum non sequitur, the fact that Huygens was (partially) correct about the wave properties of light doesn't make his statement about ether correct in any way.
Satene
Jul 18, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Jul 21, 2012
Sometimes I wish Oliver would come back . . .
mpc755
1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2012
'What fills space? - Craig Hogan, director of the Center for Particle Astrophysics'
http://www.fnal.g...-25.html

"For example, the Higgs field is much weirder than the comparisons with molasses or crowds suggest, since it does not actually drag or impede particles, but still somehow shares its mass with them."

"the Higgs field ... shares its mass with [particles of matter]"

Now the Higgs field has mass.

Aether has mass and physically occupies three dimensional space. Matter moves through and displaces the aether.

Matter is condensations of aether.

Any notion the aether has anything to do with an absolutely stationary space, which was refuted by the Michelson-Morley experiment, is an outdated understanding of the aether.
mpc755
1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2012
"It is ironic that Einstein's most creative work, the general theory of relativity, should boil down to conceptualizing space as a medium when his original premise [in special relativity] was that no such medium existed ... Relativity actually says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of matter pervading the universe, only that any such matter must have relativistic symmetry. [..] It turns out that such matter exists. ... Subsequent studies with large particle accelerators have now led us to understand that space is more like a piece of window glass than ideal Newtonian emptiness. It is filled with 'stuff' that is normally transparent but can be made visible by hitting it sufficiently hard to knock out a part. The modern concept of the vacuum of space, confirmed every day by experiment, is a relativistic ether. But we do not call it this because it is taboo." - Robert B. Laughlin, Nobel Laureate in Physics, endowed chair in physics, Stanford University