Wednesday, February 24, 2016

There's Nothing There - Part 16

The Higgs Boson. It's in there somewhere. 
So I'm told.
The first thing to say about the Higgs Boson is that we also call it the Higgs Interaction. And the Higgs Field. But we're gonna go with Interaction, because it fits so nicely with the whole Interaction thing.

The second thing to say is that when I tried to give a talk which included a tiny little bit of talking about the Higgs to a group of people that included some of the scientists who found it (this was in Geneva, very close to CERN, the particle accelerator where the Higgs was found), I didn't do so good.

I don't know why. I looked up the Higgs on Wikipedia the night
Not the Higgs.
before just to make sure. This is true.

So if you go look up the Higgs on Wikipedia (which you should do right now), here's what you'll find out.

It's way more complicated than anything I'm gonna say here.

So I'm just gonna go with what I read in the papers.

It's not that I'll be wrong. Just way too simple.

Like describing a rainbow as "pretty. With colors."

So if you're a physicist who helped discover the Higgs, you could
Nope. Still not the Higgs. 
just stop reading here and skip ahead or go drop apples out of trees or something. Go reconcile Relativity with Quantum Theory. That would be nice. Or figure out Dark Energy and Dark Matter. You could win a swell prize.


Right after Big Bang, we had all these particles whizzing about and all these laws sitting there ready to go to work, but here's the thing.

That work is "interaction".

And in order for the interaction to happen, particles generally have to have "mass".

No. Really. This is jigs. Not Higgs.
Mass is what bends space-time, and that's what we call gravity. No mass, no gravity. No gravity, no stars or galaxies or elements or planets or life. Or you and me. Or Mass. If you're Catholic. So, really, no mass = no Mass. Little physics/Catholic joke. Sorry. 

Plus, gravity needs particles that interact; gravitons. We haven't found them yet. That's because they're really hard to find.

Also, the Strong Force needs particles that interact. They're called Gluons. Because they glue stuff on. Gluons. They glue quarks together to make protons and neutrons. No Strong Force, no atoms, and no life.

And the Electromagnetic Force (also called the Electromagnetic Interaction) needs particles that have mass. Electrons. Duh. No Electromagnetic Force, no atoms, and no life. It also needs particles that don't have mass, but do interact - Photons. Light particles.

And the Weak Force needs particles that have mass. We call those the W and the Z bosons. The Weak Force is also called (are you ready for this?) the Weak Interaction. The Weak Interaction, along with Gravity, makes stars, and inside stars, the Weak Interaction makes elements. No Weak Force, no elements, and no life.

So some guys (Peter Higgs was one of them. There were five others. Go look it up.) figured out that in order for particles to have mass, there had to be another particle that would create an Interaction that would give mass to all the particles that need mass. This was, like, 60+ years ago.

It took a long time to find it. And a lot of money. A crapload of money. I mean, a craaaaplooooad. Over $13 billion. To find a particle that exists for a ten-sextillionth (10-22) of a second. A thousandth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. And even then, you don't see the Higgs. You see all the particles it decays into. So you get evidence of the Higgs, not the Higgs itself.

And the universe is chock full of Higgs Bosons. Everywhere. All
Wigs. Wigs. Not Higgs. Sheesh. 
the time. Wave your hand and knock them around by the quadrillions. But we couldn't find it without spending over $13 billion and spending 60 years at it. And it took, like, 3000 scientists. Maybe more.

It's a funny place, the universe. But it's gotta have mass in it for anything to happen, and so, the Higgs.

It does a couple of other useful things.

One. It keeps the universe from decaying. Which, as it turns out, the universe could do at any moment if the Higgs decides to change its value by a tiny little amount. Then we all just ... go away. And the Higgs could actually do this. I wouldn't worry about it. You'll never know. You'd just ... go away.

Two. It solves a problem we have with anti-matter. And matter.
Short version is, the universe is always creating matter and anti-matter particles which immediately destroy each other. Seems a bit pointless.

And it would be, except that's where the particles all come from.

No particles means no anything. Gotta have particles.

The Higgs arranges it so that every now and then (once in 10
billion times), a particle arrives without its anti-particle. So, we get particles. With mass. In a universe that doesn't collapse and go away. 

(Einstein thought it was only 1 billion. Oops.)

Dang. That Higgs. It's really something.

Here's something else. The tiny little mass of the Higgs boson, whose relative smallness allows big structures such as galaxies and humans to form, falls roughly 100 quadrillion times short of expectations. (1017). Change it just a little, and the universe has nothing in it. That's from Quanta Mag.

Mr. Biggs. NOT Mr. Higgs. Still. The Higgs is always good.
This is from ScienceAlert:  

"According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity and the theory of quantum mechanics, the Higgs field should be performing one of two tasks.

"Either it should be turned off, meaning it would have a strength value of zero and wouldn’t be working to give particles mass, or it should be turned on, and, as the theory goes, this 'on value' is absolutely enormous, But neither of those two are what physicists observe.

"In reality, the Higgs field is just slightly on. It’s not zero, but it’s ten thousand trillion times weaker than its fully on value - a bit like a light switch that got stuck just before the 'off' position. And this value is crucial. If it were a tiny bit different, then there would be no physical structure in the Universe.

"Why the strength of the Higgs field is so ridiculously weak defies understanding."

Here's something just from me. I'm gonna make it up. Let me know if it's wrong.

Photons of light have no mass. So they travel (duh) the speed of
light. The speed of themselves.

So (here's my thought) if all the other particles have no mass, then they could travel the speed of light. I don't know if they would. But they could.

But for photons, the universe doesn't exist like it does for you and me and things with mass. For photons, everything happens in the same time and at the same place.

So if particles had no mass, wouldn't everything for everything happen at the same time and at the same place?

Which would mean that the universe would be just a single spot of Space-Time. Because the universe is a Higgs Interaction between particles and Space-Time.

If there was no mass. No Higgs. No mass. No universe. Just something very like the Singularity. Not exactly like it. Just ... close.

Just a thought.

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