Local Physicists Help Find the Answer to, Oh, Everything

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If you hang out with any physicists, you may have noticed them seeming anxious, distracted, or excitable recently. That’s because scientists are narrowing in on the Higgs boson, a subatomic building block that’s so important it’s also called the “God particle.”  It’s been theorized for years, but never definitively been “found.”

Enter the Large Hadron Collider, that terrifying science experiment where trillions of protons are being run through the world’s largest high-energy particle accelerator (and that some people worried would create a black hole that would kill us all instantly — nice to know that that part didn’t work out). So what happens if the Higgs boson is found? Oh, it’d just “answer fundamental questions about the nature of existence,” that’s all.

Teams of researchers from both Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland are helping crunch data, and some of that data seems to indicate that the Higgs boson has been sighted, or found, or proven, or something. (Check out a more thorough explanation here.) The physicists are so excited they’re watching live broadcasts of experimental results. The tension in the air is palpable.

And although the scientists are all atwitter, it’s still all very preliminary — but watch out for next year, when even more (and even more definitive) conclusions will happen.



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  1. Well, I do hang out with physicists, and none of them seem very distracted lately. Interested, perhaps – attentive, maybe; but not distracted. The data from the Large Hadron Collider are adding to the continuing march of scientific evidence that leads us slowly, incrementally, to better understanding of the way our world works. The LHC is not a “..terrifying science experiment..”. It is a modern research instrument, like a microscope but better. The LHC allows researchers to perform experiments which provide data from which we hope to glean some knowledge.
    So far, in the history of modern humanity, that trail has always led to improvements in our living conditions. Basic research like this will provide the scientific basis for future engineers like my brilliant nephew to design stuff for daily use; it’s how we got transistors and microchips and CAT scans and antibiotics and plastics and practically everything we use in modern life. We don’t yet know what we will find out from this investigation; as Nick Hadley said (in one of your links), it is like hunting for something in poor light. But we are confident that what we find will be new, and someday useful.
    It may take more like a decade than a year, but people spent decades building the Gothic cathedrals in Europe, so we know long-range projects can be done. Meantime, there may be anticipation in the halls of physics departments, but no tension. That is reserved for football games, where somebody will lose.

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