Higgs, Higgs, glorious Higgs

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I was going to write about the latest IAU Horizons magazine and its welcome (if overdue) focus on the contribution of higher education to sustainable development (actually, the focus was mostly on ESD) – and, sadly, on its awful proof-reading, but what the hell, it just has to be CERN and its success at finding the Higgs boson.

Inspiring stuff.  I was reminded (not for the first time) of a hearing in the US Senate when their scientists were seeking funds to build a CERN-like facility in America.  A senator asked whether that would make the USA easier to defend.  A restrained scientist said, "No, Senator; but it will make it just a bit more worth defending". They didn't get the cash, and the rest is CERN history.

Finding the boson has nothing to do with sustainability, except in literally a universal sense, but it’s quite a triumph for UK university research, and for the values of scepticism and restraint – qualities that all our own endeavours could do with more of.

CERN’s celebrations were rather let down by poor microphones at the press conference, and so I watched the choir with their sub-Flanders & Swann routine.  Excellent stuff, and their attempts to explain Higgs were better than some of the others I heard that day.  Commentators who focused on the Higgs field were on safer ground than those who tried to discuss the boson, given that the field exists, but the particle doesn’t – at least in my kitchen.  Channel 4 News had great graphics.  Wisely, perhaps, none of them talked about the relationship between particle and field.  For that, best try Fermilab's enquiring minds.


I'm told, by smarter minds than mine, that my kitchen's full of bosons, as is anything with mass – its just that you need a CERN to prise them away from stuff.  Glad to sort that out.

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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