On the eve of discovery [JHoward]
The Higgs Boson is alive.
To cheers and standing ovations from scientists, the world’s biggest atom smasher claimed the discovery of a new subatomic particle Wednesday, calling it “consistent” with the long-sought Higgs boson — popularly known as the “God particle” — that helps explain what gives all matter in the universe size and shape.”We have now found the missing cornerstone of particle physics,” Rolf Heuer, director of the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), told scientists.He said the newly discovered subatomic particle is a boson, but he stopped just shy of claiming outright that it is the Higgs boson itself — an extremely fine distinction.”As a layman, I think we did it,” he told the elated crowd. “We have a discovery. We have observed a new particle that is consistent with a Higgs boson.”The Higgs boson, which until now has been a theoretical particle, is seen as the key to our understanding of why matter has mass, which combines with gravity to give an object weight. The idea is much like gravity and Isaac Newton’s discovery of it: Gravity was there all the time before Newton explained it. But now scientists know what a boson is and can put that knowledge to further use.
Wiki adds this:
The Standard Model predicts the existence of a field, called the Higgs field, which has a non-zero amplitude in its ground state; i.e. a non-zero vacuum expectation value. [...] The field can be pictured as a pool of molasses that “sticks” to the otherwise massless fundamental particles that travel through the field, converting them into particles with mass that form (for example) the components of atoms. Its quantum would be a scalar boson, known as the Higgs boson.
As popular press Fox naturally misses the implications of such a find. Personally I find it interesting that a “particle”, perhaps lacking a better description, has the property of assigning states to other particles, or that, as already used in the popular vernacular, this “God particle” shall be about to explain origins.
The Higgs boson is often referred to as “the God particle” by the media, after the title of Leon Lederman’s popular science book on particle physics, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? While use of this term may have contributed to increased media interest, many scientists dislike it, since it overstates the particle’s importance, not least since its discovery would still leave unanswered questions about the unification of quantum chromodynamics, the electroweak interaction, and gravity, as well as the ultimate origin of the universe.Lederman said he gave it the nickname “The God Particle” because the particle is “so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive,” but jokingly added that a second reason was because “the publisher wouldn’t let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing.”A renaming competition conducted by the science correspondent for the British Guardian newspaper chose the name “the champagne bottle boson” as the best from among their submissions: “The bottom of a champagne bottle is in the shape of the Higgs potential and is often used as an illustration in physics lectures. So it’s not an embarrassingly grandiose name, it is memorable, and [it] has some physics connection too.”
Awhile back I’d jotted down the following. This week it seems faintly fitting.
In 1979′s “The Dancing Wu Li Masters” Gary Zukav got into quantum theory, particle physics, and relativity. Then, pursuant the title, he wove them into the ancient Chinese concept of patterns of organic energy and constructed a unified glimpse of the nature of the Universe.
As it turns out, this method and framework apply to numerous interpretations of existence, where an absence of boundaries between artificially-constructed domains – the agreement between Zukav’s modern physics and ancient Eastern mysticism has eliminated one, for example – can lend great clarity to the perception of reality, a perception often marred in the West by the wall erected falsely between what’s called science and its presumed arch-competitor, faith, or perhaps better put, mind.
Of course, everything is interrelated and such divisions are semantic. In a sense there is no science, just as there is no religion. There are only impediments to knowing. Our job is to learn to know.
Rabbi Moshe Averick, orthodox rabbi:
In light of the fact that the New York Times has run another article on the fascinating world of Origin of Life research and the creation of synthetic life, (“It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” 7/27/2011, Dennis Overbye), it is instructive to point out the sins of omission of which Mr. Overbye - a veteran science writer with more than two decades of experience – is guilty. The two salient points that get lost (read: that go purposely unmentioned) among the informative interviews with researchers and the descriptions of their ingenious attempts to create life in the laboratory are: (A) Although all of the scientists mentioned believe that life came from non-life through an undirected, naturalistic process, none of them have the slightest clue as to how it actually happened, and (B) The obvious and most significant conclusion that can be drawn from all their splendid work in the lab is that the only reasonable explanation for the emergence of life is Intelligent Design! Allow me to elaborate.
Averick then elaborates at length.
My takeaway is that there is an irreducible complexity to life that cannot be explained, mitigated, or eliminated from a fuller perspective on existence. According to Averick, there is no legitimate cause to believe in, as a friend once put it, “the Gods of Chaos and Chronos” as Creators of Everything by happenstance and time when we evidently will not allow one other to believe in The Unknowable God, even as the wholly undefined Entity the name acknowledges.
In short, we’re hung up on the descriptors for Something we cannot begin to know before the fact of our not knowing It. We’ve boxed both science and religion into constructed parameters and neat definitions that neither may stray outside of and then relegated material fact to the former and God to the latter. Sadly, this limits our field of view — just as both intended but surely just as a shallow faith in mere projections onto western science limits as much or more. As I noted in my one comment under the linked article, all of which are worth a read:
Whether God exists is, at best, a semantic hurdle for the secular “scientist”. Now they need to reconsider their sizable investment in their apparent myth, back away from it, and start looking anew at far deeper meaning. There they will find science.
“Science” is itself a semantic construct because if it is taken at its literal whole instead of the commonly limited narrow definition of the word that automatically stops where we say it must, has zero vested interest in limiting anything at all, much as it itself was once (and must be again) a component of philosophy, which Zukav’s observations (he wrote Masters as a journalist and not a novelist) indicate he watched fulfill a certain mysticism centuries after it was first conceived. The mind came first, the scientific evidence later.
Likewise Averick confidently states that what was once evident to the mystical mind is now too verified by science. The mind is, naturally, a “scientific” tool.
The mind is a component in the grand construct of Existence.
Also from the comments:
Harvard geneticist, Richard Lewontin: “Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between Science and the Supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…in spite of the tolerance in the scientific community for unsubtantiated just-so stories…because we have a prior committment to naturalism….for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.”
Paul Davies: “After Watson and Crick we know that genes themselves…are living strings of pure digital information. What is more they are truly digital, in the full and strong sense of computers and compact discs, not in the weak sense of the nervous system. The genetic code is not a binary code as in computers…but a quaternary code, with four symbols. The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal. Our genetic system, which is the universal system for all life on the planet is digital to the core…DNA characters are copied with an accuracy that rivals anything modern engineers can do…DNA messages…are…pure digital code.”
After some perceptual point clearly there is no science because misusing “science” kills its own perspective and from that, its own potential. Conversely, there is no religion in God. These are linguistic terms. There is only the mystery of an absurdly awesome Existence, a state that flatly defies it’s alternative, which is not to exist, the unspeakable State.
And we don’t know why either state is so much as imaginable, yet here we are imagining!
We don’t know so much as why states occur, why bodies and particles invariably attract or repel, why constants exist, how the simply incomprehensible complexity of a equally bewildering number of variables were set such as to allow Existence to balance on impossible odds. Yet we have the arrogance to define God by atheism (more correctly “anti-theism” because atheism is passive, not active) and limit science by an undeveloped faith when we should finally introduce ourselves to the concept, entity, and state of Being.
And Being is what we’re made of and what we cannot grasp, except maybe in the very rarest of cases. A “God Particle” can no more riddle purpose than the mind can riddle why why exists, the equation in which why constitutes the purpose that explains the trajectory of reality. I therefore do not suspect, as a former favorite PW commenter liked to proclaim, that a particle shall usher in the wholesale abolition of whole ranks of god-botherers.
The God Particle, having lent properties and unity to the bottom turtle in the endless stack supporting the universe, shall, by virtue of its nickname alone, probably be granted properties it shall never possess anyway…among them the ability to see into timeless, stateless states and times.
Our faith is touching.