But it is Still Very Interesting…
The Higgs Boson has been making the news lately – the “discovery” of the particle at 125-126 GeV was reported last week following analysis of data obtained in the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. It is not the God Particle, and the observation has little, if anything, to do with the interface of science and faith. In fact all it really does is give more confidence in science (which predicted the existence of the particle after all) and the Standard Model in particular. The observation also provides an energy for the Higgs Boson. Before LHC there was a range in which it was expected, but the value was not known. Knowledge of the value may help distinguish between different proposals in String Theory and M Theory. This was big news among many of my friends and colleagues as we have a significant share and investment in the ATLAS project.
BioLogos has two posts on the Higgs this week – Naming The God Particle by Faith Tucker, a Project Coordinator for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s program on the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, and What is the Higgs Boson? by Gerald Cleaver, an Associate Professor of Physics at Baylor University and a member of the High Energy Physics group there. The latter in particular provides a much better explanation than I could put together. If you are interested give it a look.
In this post I will turn to some videos for an explanation of LHC and the Higgs Boson. Here is one of my favorite explanations of the LHC in the form of an LHC rap (the Higgs is discussed at about 2:40):
OK – that doesn’t provide much of an explanation of the Higgs Boson, but it does demonstrate that physicists can have both talent and a sense of humor.
This video provides a better explanation of the Higgs Boson and the search for the Higgs at the LHC. (By the way PHD Comics are worth a look in general.)
And finally the musical touch to help bring the data to life. Perhaps this will convince you that physicists do have both imagination and talent. The Big Bang Theory isn’t the whole picture (and this Thursday isn’t Nerdsday).
You can read more about this last video here: The Music of the Higgs Boson.
Without getting into the cost of this project (which was and continues to be rather large), I would like to start a bit of a discussion on attitudes toward scientific discoveries and theories. A great deal of effort went into the design and construction of a method to detect the Higgs Boson, the last missing particle in the Standard Model of particle physics. The effort, it appears, was successful and the confidence in our understanding of elementary physics has increased. There are still questions and mysteries, but this observation provides a confirmation of the basic outline.
Does this finding increase your confidence in science and scientists?
Is high energy physics an atheist conspiracy?
Particle physics is relatively uncontroversial. Scripture doesn’t really speak to the building blocks of matter. Very few are likely to claim that it is all a conspiracy against Christian faith. Evolution is a different case. Many Christians are skeptical of evolutionary theories. And the claim of atheist conspiracy is often made (although not by most readers of this blog). Yet the basic physics and chemistry behind evolutionary theory is as well established as particle physics. There are predictions and observations that are entirely in accord with the outline of the basic theory. The precise values and histories remain determined by observation and are modified as new observations are made. The community of scientists involved in evolutionary biology, like that involved in high energy physics, is large and characterized by self-checking skepticism. Yet 46% of Americans still doubt the conclusions of evolutionary biology, at least with respect to human origins.
Why do many find it reasonable to think that evolution is a conspiracy and these scientists unworthy of trust?
What makes this different from the findings of particle physics?
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