Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Science Journalism Failure #4,964 - The "God" Particle

Recently the scientific community has been all flustered with rumors that particle physicists are getting very close to discovering "The God particle". It seems journalists always need to coin some terribly misleading, patronizing, yet snazzy-sounding name to their headlines for fear that their story really isn't, well, "news" (they are right, most of the time).

Lets put a stop to this journalistic absurdity right now: there is no "god" particle. The particle they are referring to is the Higgs Boson, a subatomic, elemental particle predicted by the standard theory of particle physics that has yet to be discovered. There is nothing "godlike" about the particle. Its simply the last boson left to be discovered to complete the initial standard model as show below:

The neat thing about the Higgs Boson is it is supposed to give mass to the other particles. But there is no magic, god-like quality to this particle anymore than there is to the 4 fundamental forces of nature (gravity, strong nuclear, weak nuclear and EM).

Even IF this particle is found, particle physicists now believe the standard model is already outdated and additional particles would therefore need to exist in order to explain higher energy reactions (as described above). On top of this, the standard model still fails to explain gravity and relativistic physics (physics on a very very large, fast scale). Finding the Higgs Boson would be a great discovery for science, but it would be no greater than many other discoveries before it (Electrity-Magnetism link, Relativity, Gravity...etc). The engineering benefits to man-kind that would follow from finding this boson are murky, if non-existent at best in our lifetimes.

So at this point, should you care? Not really. It would basically be confirming a scientific model we have already been using for 50 years.

1 comment:

  1. It was Nobel Prize winning physicist Leon M. Lederman who wrote a book called: "The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?" and coined the term.

    Interesting, Lederman had always used the term "that goddamn particle" not the "God" particle. His editor of for the book refused to allow that blasphemy and his science ghost writer Dick Teresi and he agreed on this new phrase. How ironic. So I blame Dell publishers!