Monday, December 12, 2011

Finding God [or a Particle of Him, at least]

Various subatomic particles: Higgs Boson is not found yet.
Grab your thinking caps, brothers and sisters. Let's dip into theoretical subatomic physics, shall we? Remember that monstrous particle accelerator (it belongs to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research) that took years to build over in Europe on the French/Swiss border? (It could have been in the US, as I recall, but we would not fund it.) Well, it's doing exactly what it was built for, smashing teeny little particles of matter into each other at unbelievable speeds. BOOM! They crash into each other and produce showers of subatomic particles, which scientists can then study. (Don't even ask me about how the photos of these crash aftermaths are taken.)

Since the early 1960s, a particularly important and striking subatomic particle has existed in theory only. It is called the Higgs boson or "the God particle." And why the nickname? Well, finding this thing would be a major step forward in our knowledge of what makes everything work, i.e., a key step on the road to the unified theory of everything. Physicists have figured out how both radioactive and electromagnetic forces work, "But they need to find the particle to complete their understanding of how these forces work together at the atomic level." As I understand it, explaining how matter acquires mass is and has been an elusive question. And in the crazy world of subatomic physics which is subject to the completely counter-intuitive laws of quantum mechanics, a particle can theoretically impart mass to other particles. This magical guy is the Higgs boson.

Finally, with all that background, I can impart the big news: physicists at the CERN lab report "they have seen evidence of the God particle's existence." The results they are studying are "tantalizing" but not a "conclusive" detection of the Higgs boson. By the end of next year, scientists are confident that experiments will be definitive, and the God particle will be conclusively proven to exist.

So is God going to be subatomic? Of course . . . among other things, not the least of which is elusive and mysterious.
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