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Why does the Higgs boson matter so much?

In “What is the Higgs boson and why does it matter?” (New Scientist, December 26, 2011) physicist Lawrence Krauss, explains,

If our ideas about the Higgs boson turn out to be correct, then everything we see is a kind of window dressing based on an underlying fabric of reality in which we shouldn’t exist. The particles that make us up – which bind together to form protons, neutrons, nuclei and ultimately atoms – have mass. Without the Higgs, these particles would be massless, like photons.

In this way, the mass of everything is determined by the existence of the field, and mass is an accident of our circumstances because we exist in a universe in which such a background field happens to have arisen.

If a single Higgs and nothing else is discovered at the LHC it will therefore be a mixed blessing – perhaps the worst possibility we theorists can imagine. We will have discovered the origin of mass, as advertised, but there will be no new experimental guidance on how to take the next step.

The trouble is, the circumstances are ripe for people to “detect” things that just ain’t there, get their interpretations cast in cement, and only disown them a quarter century later, by which time contemporry philosophical goals have been nailed down and skeptics got rid of. They haven’t done it yet, but the temptation must be there. Thoughts?

Krauss’s book this year is A Universe from Nothing, more later.

See also: This Just In: Everything Came From Nothing and if You Don’t Agree You Know Nothing – Hunter on Krauss’s argument

Celeb atheists Dawkins and Grayling don’t want to debate apologist Craig because … maybe a reason is now emerging … Larry Krauss!

William Lane Craig is “disingenuous,” and he “shocked” Larry Krauss in a recent debate?

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3 Responses to Why does the Higgs boson matter so much?

  1. The trouble is, the circumstances are ripe for people to “detect” things that just ain’t there…

    It isn’t a matter of someone squinting at the data and saying, “Yeah, I think I see the Higgs.” The accepted standard for announcing a particle discovery is a 5-sigma observation. If the folks at the LHC achieve that, then the chances that the Higgs isn’t really there are less than one in a million.

  2. The trouble is, the circumstances are ripe for people to “detect” things that just ain’t there, get their interpretations cast in cement, and only disown them a quarter century later, by which time contemporry philosophical goals have been nailed down and skeptics got rid of. They haven’t done it yet, but the temptation must be there. Thoughts?

    I’m not able to make too much sense of the above paragraph (is there an editor in the house). But it seems to me that however this research turns out, useful information will be obtained that could influence future discoveries and research. Isn’t that the way science progresses?

    It seems to me News would rather this research didn’t happen until, but it’s not clear what News would advocate in its place, if anything.

  3. I agree with Woodford, but I also understand the point of the article. It is a good reminder that we all have our biases – what we want to be true. Sometimes we are tempted to let those biases influence our interpretations of the evidence and facts. So there certainly is a possibility for this to happen in this instance. They will need clear proof to convince people as opposed to just a “we think this” or “Probably this is…”, etc. “News” is just reminding us that our personal biases do often influence our conclusions. Perhaps the more important the issue is, the greater the temptation to do this.

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