The Higgs Boson, AKA GOD-Particle: A Stairway to Heaven? (Physics for the Layman - updated 8/26/14)
IN THE BEGINING
A New Discovery!!! Gravity Waves
3/18/2014: IN THE SECTION BELOW TITLED "THE SCIENTIFIC VIEW", I discussed the various "Epochs" the development of the Universe went through to get where we are today. The first three are labeled the "Very Early Universe", the "Plank Epoch", and the "Grand Unification Epoch". Extremely little is known for sure about the first 10-36 seconds after the Big Bang, which is the amount of time these three epochs span; that would be .000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds in non-scientific notation.
Until the end of the Grand Unification Epoch, the four fundamental forces that we know or hypothesize about were just a single force. Three of the forces, the "electromagnetic", the "weak", and the "strong" force are known have been measured, are known to exist. It is the fourth force, the gravitational force which is strongly suspected to exist, but until a few days ago, was still only a theory. That is no longer true! ... or so we think. In May 2014, new research from other scientists using data about cosmic dust suggests that it is possible dust could account for what was observed. None of the opposing data came specifically from the location where the BICEP2 telescope was situated and the scientists admitted their estimates were on the high side, nevertheless the jury is now still out. More is expected to be known in October 2014.
In any case, for those who want to know, gravitational waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime that propagate as a wave, travelling outward from the source and many different attempts have been made to detect them; up to March, it has been a dismal failure. But in March, from a telescope situated on the South Pole, that is part of a project called BICEP2 -- Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2, direct evidence of the existence of gravitational waves.was allegedly detected. Gravity is theorized to have separated from the other three fundamental forces during the Grand Unification Epoch. i will explain more about each other three forces in the appropriate section below.and will take on gravity in a separate Hub later.
A Note to Creationists
IF YOU GOT HERE because of the Hub's title please know this isn't a religious hub, it is one on science that is tangentially related to evolution. However, you might want to continue anyway if not for something interesting to think about then possibly a few laughs.
A Note to Evolutionists
SAME COMMENT AS FOR THE CREATIONISTS, although you might want to stick around for other reasons. What I am going to delve into with this Hub is the latest on where we are in proving the "God-particle", one of the most fundamental particle that theory says exists, the particle which results when matter is created. The proof that such a particle exists will come through the statistical analysis of the results from high energy collision of atomic nuclei. And, if the proof is there, where does it fit into the scheme of things. I will also "attempt" to do this by using the fun sounding physics names but otherwise in layman's language. (I have to because I am not a physicist and I don't understand it myself.)
My Little Bit of Religion
BEFORE TIME = 0, there was God and God's plan. For that matter, after Time = 0 there is God as well, just in a different form. At Time = 0, God's plan exploded into the Universe via the Big Bang. There you have it.
THE ATOM and an OLD GREEK
Democritus (460 - 370 BCE), no, he is not the father of democracy, but, instead, is sometimes referred to as the Father of Science is normally credited with the first person to come up with the concept of the "indivisible" particle, the "atom". As is normally true, it probably wasn't him, but his less documented mentor, Leucippus, who did. There are even reports, much less historically verified that the idea of an atom was put forth even centuries before this in various parts of the world including one by Plato, who hated Democritus, that said Moses (by a different name) came up with the idea; but for sure, Democritus-Leucippus certainly wrote and talked about it.
Now, most modern Americans who take an interest in science probably think Niels Bohr came up with the idea of the atom around 1922, when he received a Nobel prize for his work with the structure of the atom, but, of course that wouldn't be true. This isn't to denigrate Dr. Bohr at all for another piece of his Nobel prize was for his work in Quantum Mechanics which ends up being the foundation of this hub and is no less fundamental a concept as Democritus' idea of the atom. But, nevertheless, 400 BCE is a long time ago, or so it seems, unless one puts in perspective.
Putting Things in Perspective
THE KNOWLEDGE WE ARE GAINING ABOUT THE UNIVERSE around us is increasing exponentially; but, I suspect most of us are not really aware of that. I know I am not conscious of it until I sit down and really think about it; I mean sit down and consider what I knew when I graduated from college the first time in 1971 and what I know now. Further, as I conduct research, such as for this hub, I am just floored at how far we have come, so I wanted to give you a sense of what I feel.
When Democritus, et al, were conceiving the atom around 400 BCE, give or take:
- if you were an evolutionist or non-fundamentalist creationist, homo sapien sapiens (modern humans) had been walking around for four to five million years.
- If you are a fundamentalist creationist, then Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden some 3,500 to 7,500 years prior to Democritus' bright idea.
- Of course, the concept of Adam and Eve only came about 100 to 400 years before the atomic paradigm was proposed; and, if some of the other histories are to be believed, the reasoning behind the atom existed well before the Book of Genesis was ever written.
- As you can now guess, the natural philosophy (science) of the atom had been quite developed by Aristotle and others well before Christianity evolved from Judaism some 500 years after the atom.
- Another 300 years would pass before the official Bible was created by the Catholic Church that allowed scholars to place the official age of the earth as being somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old, depending on which fundamentalist you are talking to.
- Simultaneous with the rise of Christendom was the fall of natural philosophy, and science took a forced hiatus wherever Christians ruled for the next 1000 years, until the Renaissance in the mid 1400s. Fortunately, the Muslims didn't have such qualms about science and kept at it, especially in the field of optics.
From the 1500s on, it has been a race, at ever increasing speed, to the top, with advances accelerating greatly at the turn of the Twentieth Century. These included the discoveries of such great minds as Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. With the advent of the 21st Century, it all seems to be moving at warp speed now.
Evolution of the Universe
The Scientific View
This is a link to a very understandable article on particle physics. You can ignore the math, I did, and focus on the explanation, the author did a great job in keeping an esoteric subject within the realm of us everyday people.
TO THE SCIENTIST TODAY, THE EVOLUTION OF THE UNIVERSE is very clear. Astrophysicists have been refining their model for centuries until, with the help of the Hubble telescope and recent satellite observations, the final pieces fell into place. Science now knows, with a high degree of certainty that the universe is 13.75 +- .11 billion years old. They have a reasonable theory of how the universe began, but not what it began from, and an extremely good idea of how it expanded. Scientists have also basically solved the decades old question of whether the universe will expand forever, reach stability, or contract again; research has ruled out the latter two but the former has variations that can get really strange; especially when you try to theorize what happened a moment Before the Big Bang (this is why I said "basically")..
Independent mathematical approaches lead the same answers related above. Further, recent observations back up predictions made by those mathematical theories. Add to this the fact that astronomers can actually "see" the very young universe (see Picture 1 above) and therefore take measurements, makes their case extremely complelling. So, what do astrophysicists think the timeline of the Universe is? How did we get from there to here? Following is their current thought which I summarized from a Wikipedia article "Chronology of the Universe", you can find all of the necessary citations there:
- Very Early Universe - this is still being hypothesized about as there are no "atom smashers" available are strong enough to produce experiments at the temperatures which must have existed at this point. There are several theories being worked on including Hartle–Hawking initial state, string landscape, brane inflation, string gas cosmology, and the ekpyrotic universe. Some of these are mutually compatible, while others are not.
- Plank Epoch - Up to 10-43 seconds ATBB (after the Big Bang). That is "a point" followed by 43 zeros before you get the 1; a very short period of time indeed! This is a very gray time period where understanding is very limited but not a void. It is thought to be when temperatures were so high that the four fundamental forces; gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear, and the strong nuclear force were one unified force. This is the Holy Grail that physicists are looking for.
- Grand Unification Epoch - Between 10-43 and 10-36 seconds ATBB. At this point, the temperature of the universe fell below 11x10405 degrees Kelvin (, Fahrenheit, or Centigrade; it really doesn't make any difference when it is that hot and if I did my math right converting from 1015 GeV); this is when gravitational force separated from the three other "Gauge" forces. It would be during this period where the newly discovered "gravitational waves" were first generated.
- Electroweak Epoch - Between 10-36 and 10-12 seconds ATBB, The temperature further declines past 11x1054 K (100 GeV) and the strong nuclear force separates from the remaining two now known as the Electroweak force.
- Inflationary Epoch - From 0 to ?? seconds after ATBB. This is the epoch that is the focus of this hub and has the attention of so much science ... outside of the United States. This epoch period, whose end is undefined at the moment, but thought to be about 10-32 seconds ATBB, is critical for the understanding of how the universe came to be. You see, in order for the timeline to agree with observations and for the math to hold together, the Universe could not have expanded linearly from time zero; it must have expanded at a rate that agrees with one or another variation of the Inflationary theory. Embedded in the most popular inflation theory is something called the Higgs Field and Dark Energy; both of which must actually exist for current theory to work. It is from the Higgs field where we get the "God Particle", otherwise known as the Higgs Boson, and it is from the interactions with the Higgs field. and its cooresponding Higgs boson, that something called "spontaneous symmetry breaking" occurs where the Electromagentic force with its massless photon boson separates from the Weak Nuclear Force with its "massive" W and Z bosons. At this point, the four fundament forces of the Universe, Electormanetic, Weak Nuclear, Strong Nuclear, and Gravitational are now separate entities with three having bosons who are massless, photons, gluons, and, theoretically, gravitons, while the W and Z boson uncharacteristically, but fortunately for us, has mass.
- Quark Epoch - Between 10-12 and 10-6 seconds ATBB. In this epoch quarks and leptons came into existence by the interaction of the W and Z bosons with the Higgs boson; at least that is the theory.
- Hadron Epoch - Between 10-6 and 1 seconds ATBB. The universe finally cooled enough to allow quarks to bind together to form things called hadrons, such as protons and neutrons.
- Lepton Epoch - Between 1 and 10 seconds ATBB. Keep in mind that as matter is formed, so is anti-matter, just in minutely less quantity. Therefore, most of the hadrons annihilate each other leaving behind leptons, e.g., electrons.
- Photon Epoch - Between 10 seconds and 377,000 years ATBB. Now lepton and anti-leptons annilhilate each other leaving massless photons to dominate the universe. But, what matter is left over begins to form into atomic nuclei through nuclear fusion brought on by the high densities and temperatures still present from 3 to 20 minutes after the Big Bang. After that, the pressures and temperatures are too low to sustain fusion, so it stops. Because of imperfections in the symmetry of the universe, matter, in the form of nuclei begin to coalesce and in about 70,000 years matter and photons are about equal. Temperatures keep cooling until around 377,000 years ATBB, the nucleii can capture and keep the electrons forming uncharged atoms clearing a path for photons to escape as light as we know it.
- Dark Ages- Between 377,000 and 150 million years ATBB. The universe continues to expand and matter consolidates.
- Reionization and Structure Building - Between 150 million and 1 billion years ATBB. During this period stars, Quasars, galaxies, groups, clusters and superclusters were formed.
- Formation of the Solar System- 9 billion years ATBB. Our solar system was created.
- First Life on Earth - 12 billion years ATBB.
- First Humans on Earth - 13.7497 billion year
What the Scientists Found
GRAVITATIONAL WAVES HAVE BEEN FOUND ... they think.
SCIENTISTS USING THE BACKGROUND IMAGING OF COSMIC EXTRAGALACTIC POLARIZATION 2 telescope parked on the South Pole looking up into the night sky. After years of trying with various experiments all over the world they think they found what they were looking for, part of which is shown in the photo to the right. How they know those squiggly areas are evidence of gravitational waves is beyond me, but that is what they say.
The significance of this potential breakthrough is this was predicted by Albert Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.
Old and New Views of the Atom
Bosons, Hadrons, Leptons, and Fermions
IN THE PREVIOUS SECTION I threw out a lot rather interesting (strange?) sounding names of forces and particles from which we all come from; three of them, hadrons, leptons, and fermions, are inside of us right now; in a sense, so are bosons as well. So, what are these little strange things? Since we will be referring to them a lot, it might help to know.
The first two we will consider are bosons and fermions. In simple terms, these are the actual building blocks of all that there is; together they produce what Democratis had in mind when he thought about the atom. Instead of the atom however, the fundamental particles are the fermions, from which the electrons, protons, and neutrons derive; and the bosons, which carry the weak and strong nuclear forces that bind the electrons to the nucleus and the protons to the neutrons.
BOSONS - named after Satyendra Nath Bose,,, half of the Bose-Einstein duo responsible for the original theory. Bosons are "force carrier" particles that, and some,in a theoretical sense, have no mass. You probably know most of these already, by one name or another; there are several.
- Photon, which carries the electromagnetic force, and is massless
- W and Z Boson, which carry the weak nuclear force, and has mass
- Gluon, which carries the strong nuclear force, which is massless
- Meson, which, in some instances carries the strong nuclear force
- Then there are "stable nuclei of even mass numbers" and "quasiparticles" which obey the laws for bosons and I just hurt my head trying to understand
These are known to exist in nature; the first three are called Gauge Bosons and are part of the Standard Model of Particle Physics and considered massless. Another boson, the Higgs Boson, the subject of this hub, now has some experimental support that it exists (see the end of the Hub for a 2013 update). Others, which are only theories at the moment are the graviton, which carries the gravitational force, and the X and Y bosons which are connected with the Grand Unification Theory.
What makes some of the gauge bosons, the photon and gluon, most interesting are there lack of mass and the fact that there is no limit as to how many can fit into the same space. For example, consider a 1000 flashlights arranged such that they all focus on the same point, then turned on. Countless photons stream to the exact same point, pass through and continue on. They don't bounce off of each other, do they? They simple occupy the same space for an instant and then move on. On the other hand, the W and Z boson have mass, but are extremely short lived and are absorbed or ejected in their various interactions, These features will be extremely important.
FERMIONS - named after, yes, Enrico Fermi do have mass and they can't occupy the same space at the same time. There are two types fermions, quarks and leptons, and in the Standard Model there 6-sub types for each, and each one of those having an anti-particle.
- Leptons, among other things, are electrons
- Quarks combine to form other particles, for example, 2 up-quarks and 1 down-quark make a proton, while 1 up-quark and 2 down-quarks form the neutron
Of course, in physics, it must get stranger. Protons and neutrons are part of a family called "baryons". Included in the baryon family are composite particles called "hyperions", "charmed", and "bottom"; which I am going to ignore.
How are bosons and fermions related? Effectively, bosons hold fermions together. For example, it takes the photon to bind the electron to the nucleus of an atom and it takes the gluon to hold protons and neutrons together. Obviously, I have really oversimplified things, but, there you have it.
Large Haydron Collider in Cern, Switzerland
The Making of Matter
MAYBE SOME PHYSICIST WHO is reading this hub, probably laughing his or her you-know-what off at the naivete of my presentation, can answer me on this, but in my simple mind the creation of matter from breaking symmetry is somehow related to E=MC2, which I haven't seen referred to in my research as of yet. Anyway, this is where we are, creating matter and the Higgs bosons, euphemistically known as the "god-particle", a term physicists apparently hate because it is a total misnomer.
Just as there is an electromagnetic "field" and a gravitational "field", both which are presently detectable, it is theorized their exists a Higgs "field" in nature. You can detect an electromagnetic field by bringing two magnets together; and depending on their orientation, they will either repel or attract each other which, to prevent that reaction from happening, will require you to expend energy to counter this force. You can see this field by sprinkling iron filings on a piece of paper covering a magnet; by jiggling the paper, the filings will outline the force lines of the field itself. What makes up these "force lines"? The answer is bosons, specifically, photons; in a sense, you are fighting light, but not really.
Another field we know of today is the gravitational field. We know it exists because we see the results, just hold a rock up and let go; we all know what will happen. Unlike electromagnetism, we don't know yet is what the actual force is which allows the gravitational effect to happen; right now one of the names some scientists are giving it is a boson like particle called the graviton ... which must have certain properties to agree with the Standard Model and observations. Two of these properties are that the graviton has no mass and acts at an infinite distance, just like two of the other gauge particles, the photon and gluon. [3/18/2014, the first direct evidence of the gravitational wave has been found, but still needs confirmation.]
The Higgs field, named after Peter Higgs, who developed the idea in 1964, posits this field exists everywhere in space. It is the interaction with this field, so theory has it, where matter is created. As we see with the electromagnetic field, there is an associated boson, the photon. Consequently, if there is a Higgs field, there should also be an associated boson; which has been labeled the Higgs boson. It is this boson for which scientists have long been searching for if they find it, it shores up the Standard Model, the most accepted of current theories, of how the Universe is put together.
Then a Miracle Happens
AT THIS POINT, THE PHYSICS BEGIN to overwhelm my simple mind, but let me try to translate what I am reading. Our starting point, if you go back to our timeline for the creation of the universe, to the Inflationary Epoch, from 0 to ?? seconds after ATBB, with ?? currently thought to be about 10-32 seconds. It is during this period that the universe cooled enough so that the "electroweak" force could no longer hold together. When they separated, as had the strong and gravitational forces before them, the physics involved would have occurred on a "symmetrical" basis such that two resulting components, say, the graviton and the electromagneticweakstrong force and its boson, would maintain the same properties regarding mass, a thing called spin, charge, etc. That didn't happen with this last separation; it had a "spontaneous symmetry breaking" event.
Symmetry is sort of what it sounds like. In Newtonian physics you three-axis; x, y, and z plus time T. In quantum physics you have similar components and if things are symmetrical, if you rotate a system around any one axis, the resulting system maintains the same properties of the original. Similarly, if you reflect a system, you will get the mirror-image, but the properties remain the same; i.e., A = B, therefore B = A. In symmetry breaking events, B does not necessarily = A (this isn't quite the right example, but close enough for government work.)
The Higgs mechanism theory is that when the temperature of the universe cooled sufficiently, the electroweak force spontaneously broke symmetry in the presence of the Higgs field, with its Higgs boson, and the result was, in extremely simplistic, and I hope correct terms, a symmetrical electromagnetic force and massless photon as well as a Weak Nuclear Force, with a W+ boson, a W- boson and a Z boson, each having real mass; thus accounting for your four axis.
One way you might view this "spontaneous symmetry breaking" is to consider electrolysis, turning water into hydrogen and oxygen. Your electromagneticweak force is a solution of salt and water in a bowl with two electrodes in it connected to a switch, a device that measures room tempurature, and a battery. The room is hot, but is cooling. When it cools to a certain tempurature, the device activates the switch, "spontaneously" sending a current through the salt-water mix and bubbles immediately appear at the two electrodes. What is water, but H2O. Let hydrogen be our W bosons and oxygen be the Z boson. The salt-water mix is the electromagneticweak force, where NaCl, salt, stands in for electromagnitism.
What ihappens is the current breaks the bonds of the water molecule into its constituent parts, hydrogen and oxygen, which move to their respective electrodes and dissipate as a gas. Let this go on long enough and all of the water is gone, leaving only salt. Our initial conditions had salt molecules and water molecules mixing it up, while our end-state had salt cystals on the bottom of the bowl and atoms of hydrogen and oxygen floating around as a gas. Clearly symmetry was broken everywhere in this case. Ions of sodium and clorine floating around in a watery environment crystalized back into a solid structure. What was liquid water, with its own properties, became two distict gases, each with their own, but nevertheless similar properties, both of which are different fom that of water.
How is this mass seemingly created out of nothing? It is not really. Remember E = MC2? Well, change that a little and you get M = E/C2, and knowing that "Force" is energy; somebody please correct me if I am off the mark with my simplification, when symmetry was broken, the energy was converted into mass, just as the reverse happens in an atomic explosion, mass is turned into various forms of energy. The key to this happening, of course, is the Higgs field and the Higgs boson. If the Higgs boson can be proven to actually exist in reality, then everything else falls nicely into place.
But, assuming the Higgs boson does exist, then the Picture 9 on the right makes the rest child's play. OK, so it doesn't, but my Calculus text would say it did then move off to something else; unfortunately for me, Wikipedia didn't exist when I went to college, in fact neither did the Internet or hand held calculators, at least when I took Calculus. By the time I got to accounting ten or so years later, the calculator had come quite a way and spreadsheets were just hitting the market. Seven years after that, spreadsheets and word processors (thank goodness) had matured as had the desktop computer, this made my Ops Research course work much easier; the Internet had just been born. I believe, this was 1990.
Sorry for the sojourn. If you look in the lower left corner of Picture 9, you will find our Higgs boson, while in the middle of Picture 9 you should see the W+ boson, a W- boson and a Z boson. On the left and right of those bosons, you find the Photon and Gluon bosons, respectively, while in the top left you have the Lepton and the top right, the Quarks. Then there are all of those interconnecting lines. Let's disassemble Picture 9:
- From the Quark fermion, there is a connection to a Gluon boson. If you remember, certain arrangements of quarks held together by gluon form protons and neutrons. This the Strong Nuclear Force.
- From the Lepton fermion, which is an electron, there is a connection with a photon which itself is connected to the Quark, this is the Electromagnetic Force that binds the electron to the nucleus of an atom.
- Both the W and Z bosons decay into leptons, quarks, and neutrinos.
- Finally, Higgs bosons which has mass, should they exist, also decay into leptons and quarks, but also W and Z bosons.
As you can see, a lot hinges on whether the Higgs boson exists or not. On July 4, 2012, two independent teams working "blindly" from each other, CMS and ATLAS, reported similar results from experiments run on the CERN's Large Haydron Collider (LRC). Together, their results were good enough that in many cases, a formal announcement of a discovery might have been made. But, this is too important to get wrong so more experimenting must happen over the next couple of years, especially after they have finished upgrading the LRC in 2013-2014. However, studies have gone on and as of November 2012 at a conference in Kyoto, Japan all of the work accomplished since July point toward the Higgs field and the Higgs boson as being the right answer as to how matter came into being.
December 3, 2013 Update
TODAY, AT A SIMINAR AT THE CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, it was announced by the CMS experiment with the Large Hadron Collider that they have confirmed the existence of the HIGGS BOSON. A week before, the ATLAS experiment made the same announcement! Results from these two experiments went a long way to proving the existence of the Higgs Boson, and therefore the efficacy of the Standard Model of Particle Physics; the initial discovery of the Higgs Boson was July 4, 2012.
If you refer back the discussion surrounding Picture 9, I mentioned that if Higgs bosons actually exist, they would decay into leptons (photons), fermions (quarks), and W/Z Bosons. Last week ATLAS saw strong evidence of the Higgs decaying into leptons and W/Z Bosons. Today CMS announced the presence of fermion in the decay products.
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© 2012 Scott Belford