This is Your Brain On Awesome Thoughts on the world from a student of the mind

3Jul/12

The force is strong with particle physics

Remember that first time that you watched Star Wars?  The one where, afterward, you stood thinking intensely about the coke can on the table for an hour, blindly hopeful that it was just a matter of time before you rocketed it across the room and out the window?

Then remember how it was explained that "The Force" actually came from these things called Metachlorians, and you thought "Clearly, it is only a matter of time before the scientists discover that the force is real and I am actually a Sith Lord"?

Well, the scientists may have delivered.

OK, that's not really true.  But they are pretty close to discovering an amazing component of the universe - one that strongly supports the so-called "standard model" of physics.  I'm talking, of course, about the Higgs Boson.

It may not impart telekinetic abilities to a gifted few, but the Higgs Boson is actually representative of a larger "energy field" that all matter is constantly interacting with.  As a recent post on MSNBC's Cosmiclog explains, the Higgs Field permeates all matter - it is all around us, and is responsible for giving mass to certain objects, while leaving others alone.

So what is the Higgs Boson, then?  Well, much in the same way that water is actually composed of billions of H2O molecules, the Higgs Field is comprised of tiny little particles as well: Higgs Bosons.  Were the scientists to discover that one of these little guys actually exist, it would strongly support the theory that this energy field also exists.  Still confused?  I don't blame you - but check out the video below.  They do a fantastic job of explaining the physics and intuition behind the Higgs Field and Boson.

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait a few more hours before finding out what exactly has been discovered.  Members of the scientific community are planning a press release on the 4th of July.  Even more extraordinary is that any findings will likely come from a compilation of data from many of the largest particle accelerators in the world.  It will prove to be a collaborative effort on a massive scale, with each center building on the results of another (though some have a slightly different interpretation).

So, as you're getting ready to fire up the grill tomorrow, don't forget to check the news.  Then think about the fact that your burgers only exist because they're suspended in an invisible energy field comprised of infinitesimal Higgs Bosons.  Ah yes, the force is strong with you indeed.

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