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Entries in ATLAS (1)


A Big Hadron for the Higgs Boson

You can't see it. But it is there. On a brilliant summer day when the world crackles, when life is generous and a warm wind kisses your face, you feel its' radiant presence. You see how distant events are connected but not by coincidence. When all boundaries crumble before this powerful vibration it's exciting to know that you are part of its' shimmering splendour. You can go forward knowing that the path will vanish under you.

All of which is to say you're going to be hearing a lot about the Higgs Boson in the next while.

The Higgs Boson is a sub-atomic particle, postulated but not yet found. Confirmation would lend credence to the idea there is an invisible energy field that fills the vacuum of the observable universe. Without this field, or something akin, we would not be here.

Is that a Hadron in your pocket

So we're about to receive an important news update from CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, as the hunt for this particle continues in a giant particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near the Franco-Swiss border. The LHC, a 27 kilometre underground track where particles smash each other at 99 percent of the speed of light, is the world's largest particle accelerator. If the Higgs Boson is confirmed as a result of these ongoing smash-ups it will point to the existence of the Higgs Field. And the Higgs Field will reinforce the Standard Model of particle physics, and all will be right with the world.

I don't pretend to know what is coming down the pipe from CERN but I feel as if I have had a small part in this, since my painting, Elemental Particles, was used on the poster and brochure for the First International Conference on Multiple Partonic Interactions at the LHC in 2008. That's when the hunt for the Higgs Boson really accelerated, so to speak.

The Higgs Boson – dubbed the God particle - is named after Peter Higgs, the 83-year-old University of Edinburgh physicist who with others first postulated the existence of a kind of quantum plasma – the Higgs Field – in 1964. But there wasn't equipment to detect it until the LHC came online. So one little Higgs-like boson poking its nose out of nowhere before spinning off and decaying back into nothing could point to the actual and not just theoretical existence of the Higgs Field.

There are implications for cosmology inasmuch as the Higgs Field is believed to have switched on a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang, which, as we know, blasted the universe into existence some 13.7 billion years ago. Before this instant, all particles in the cosmos were massless and they zipped around chaotically at the speed of light.Elemental Particles 6x9 w/c

I love the description of what happened after the Big Bang from The Guardian, because it reminds me of what Alchemists for centuries have called 'The Quickening': "When the Higgs Field switched on, some particles began to feel a 'drag' as they moved around, as though caught in cosmic glue. By clinging to the particles, the field gave them mass, making them move around more slowly. This was a crucial moment in the formation of the universe, because it allowed particles to come together and form all the atoms and molecules around today.

But some particles of light, photons, move through the Higgs field as if it wasn't there. Because the field does not cling to them, they are weightless and destined to move around at the speed of light forever. Other particles, like quarks and electrons – the smallest constituents of atoms – get caught in the field and gain mass in the process.

The field has enormous implications. Without it, the smallest building blocks of matter, from which all else is made, would forever rush around at the speed of light. They would never come together to make stars, planets, or life as we know it."

Or are you just happy

Of course the pending announcement by CERN scientists who work in this world of protons, gluons, photons, muons, mesons, quarks, antiquarks and pions may not be confirmation of the Higgs Boson at all. It may be something as simple as cool new data on dark matter and neutrinos or a confirmation of a beautiful new baryon.

CERN certainly won't be telling us why there is something rather than nothing, and these physical findings will not usher in a new era of world peace, human health or prosperity.

There is excitement though, because continued work on particle symmetry is likely to produce valuable understanding of the origin of mass, how our physical universe came to be the way it is, and how it is held together.

We probably won't find out from CERN why, in the words of Nahmanides, "from nothing he called me forth." That kind of knowing is a messy knowing. It's an intuitive knowing - a knowing that arises from proper intention - akin to making a little painting just for the heck of it. This category of knowledge comes when we look inward but not too hard. Since if we look very hard for anything we will surely find what we seek. Better, sometimes, that we find a thing that we are not looking for, something that just comes our way as a surprise or a gift. For this prize, the pearl of great price, we relax and take it easy. But in our crazy world some days it's like we are

¡dn s,ʎɐʍ ɥɔıɥʍ ouunp ʎsnq os


(Top Image: Veil Nebula 24x24 Canvas Giclee)


Update July 4: New particle, Consistent with HB - Sigma 5 @ 125GeV - coolio!