Posts Tagged ‘Large Hadron Collider’

God Particle Atheism

September 9, 2008

"Mexican Hat" Higgs Potential There’s a good article in Slate today about the Higgs boson, and why we shouldn’t be surprised when the Large Hadron Collider doesn’t find it (assuming of course that the LHC doesn’t destroy us all when they fire it up tomorrow). I say it’s good because it says exactly what I’ve always thought about the Higgs particle: it’s an ugly mathematical hack, merely the simplest thing Weinberg and Glashow and Salam had handy to make SU(2) × U(1) electroweak theory work1. “God Particle” indeed. Please don’t believe this sort of thing (found just now by googling):

Specifically, the Higgs boson, the most elusive speck of matter in the universe. Often called the God particle, it’s supposed to be the key to explaining why matter has mass. Physicists believe that Higgs particles generate a kind of soupy ether through which other particles move, picking up drag that translates into mass on the macroscopic scale. The Higgs is the cornerstone of 21st-century physics; it simply has to be there, otherwise the standard model of the universe collapses.

The last sentence is, as far as I can tell, drivel. Actually, the collapse of the standard model would be just fine; it’s kind of a kludge, really, neither complete nor elegant.

For the record, I’m not expecting the LHC to find any squarks or sleptons either.


1. Actually the general mechanism is neat; it’s the specifics that are ad hoc and inelegant.