Having the Higgs in the room

Also at The Guardian

It is a beautiful thing that Peter Higgs did. He took a very complicated description of reality that explained some things so well it could not be ignored, and utterly failed to explain other things, things that we couldn’t ignore. He didn’t ignore the fact that the standard model was rendering all things massless, which would mean we could not possibly exist.

Higgs: something to scrub for.

He allowed us to keep the symmetry we obviously need, and he just gave it a little shake. He perturbed it. He took the maths that describes a ground state of something we see in mathematics, our gate to reality, and he shook it slightly and then it gave us all(ish) of the answers.

The Higgs mechanism may well be wrong, but if it is, I think it is still something. Something beautiful. I want to know what is really going on as much as anybody I can think of. Lots of us do. The truth is that 95% of our brain power is directed towards working out how wrong we might be, calculating the uncertainty in every measurement and combining these calculations in such a tedious way as to put most undergraduates on a direct road to the city: the wonderful world of hedge funds, nice shoes and restaurants in Soho.

Having the Higgs in the room is, for me, like having a fresh bunch of flowers on the table from a new lover. It is a pleasure to do housework around such a thing. It doesn’t even feel like work.


About lilyasquith

I am a particle physicist working on sonification of the data output from the ATLAS detector at CERN. The project I'm working on is called LHCsound and is funded by the STFC. It is based at University College London where I have just finished my PhD on the search prospects for a low mass standard model Higgs Boson. I have now moved to Chicago to start an ATLAS postdoc with Argonne National Laboratory.
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