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The Higgs Boson: The 48 Year Quest for the God Particle


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-Why essential? Why called the “God” particle?
- My MIT classmate Gerald Guralnik, presently Chancellor’s Professor of Physics at Brown U, together with five others, predicted its existence in 1964.
-Why 48 years to confirm its existence?
-Why did only Englert and Higgs get the 2013 Nobel Prize?

Published in: Technology

The Higgs Boson: The 48 Year Quest for the God Particle

  1. 1. The Higgs Boson: The 48-year Quest for the “God Particle” By Paul H. Carr, BS. MIT. 1957, Ph. D. 1966 AF Research Laboratory Emeritus --Englert and Higgs awarded the Nobel Prize in October 2013
  2. 2. Discovery of The Higgs boson! --Theory 1964, likely observation announced July 4, 2012 and existence stated to be almost certain on 14 March 2013 --Englert and Higgs awarded the Physica Nobel Prize, October 2013
  3. 3. The Higgs Boson 1. Why important? 2. Prediction in 1964 3. Why called “God Particle” ? 4. Discovery 2012
  4. 4. The “God” Particle: The 48 year quest for the Higgs Boson Vugraphs courtesy of Gerald Guranik BS. MIT 1958, Ph. D. Harvard 1964 The Chancellor’s Professor of Theoretical Physics, Brown University • He and 5 others theorists predicted the boson’s existence in 1964. • Why was he not awarded the Nobel Prize?
  5. 5. Working at Harvard 1961 Lord May of Oxford, G. S. Guralnik driver, and C.R. Hagen
  6. 6. ! Sakurai Prize Ceremony February 2010 5 of 6 theoretical physicists who predicted the boson in 1964. L toR, Kibble, Guralnik , and Hagen, with MIT ties, Englert (Nobel), Brout (deceased) Peter Higgs (Nobel) for whom the boson is named was not present.
  7. 7. what is the Higgs boson? • the matter around us consists of atoms. Positive nucleus, negative electrons, electromagnetic attraction. • there are many types of atoms and we know why • the periodic table summarizes our understanding
  8. 8. what is the Higgs boson? • • • • atomic nuclei are made of protons and neutrons we know why there are protons and neutrons (and many others...) they are made of different combinations of quarks Without the Higgs, theory predicts particles are massless. u d u neutron proton u d d
  9. 9. • Fission of U235 (92 protons, 143 neutrons) powers nuclear reactors and atomic bombs • U238 (92 protons, 146 neutrons) has more neutrons and is stable • Centrifuges are used to separate obtain U235 from U238.
  10. 10. what is the Higgs boson? In 1964 Dick Hagen, Tom Kibble and I as well as Higgs (and Englert, Brout) had an idea We added another particle to the (simplified) theory We predicted that it would interact with other particles and the stronger this interaction is the larger the mass of these particles would be today this particle is called the Higgs boson
  11. 11. The Higgs boson walks into church, priest says, “We don’t allow your type in here.” Higgs replies “But without me, how can you have mass?”
  12. 12. Guralnik’s Rejection • I gave a talk on this at a conference near Munich (July 1965) held in honor of Werner Heisenberg – a founder of Quantum mechanics and certainly one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. • He made it clear to me that he thought our theory was Junk! • I was scared and thought it was the end of my short career.
  13. 13. Redemption • On Hagen’s recommendation Robert Marshak gave me a postdoctoral job at the University of Rochester. • He told me survival required I no longer work on symmetry breaking • I worked on some ideas of Steven Weinberg’s and explained something about mass yet again. • This new work was instrumental in getting me an assistant professorship at Brown starting academic year 1967 -1968
  14. 14. Redemption • Meanwhile Weinberg was working on the GHK (our) paper. • He (and Salam) discovered the unified theory of electromagnetism and weak interactions and all of this now is the cornerstone of the “Standard Model of particle physics. • This led to decades of search to verify the predictions of our model and even some recognition!
  15. 15. Higgs Field and Higgs Boson Explained
  16. 16. how to discover a particle • we built the world’s largest scientific instrument – the LHC • it collides protons at very high energy • a Higgs boson may be created once every 2 billion collisions
  17. 17. how to discover a particle • we built detectors as big as cathedrals • when a Higgs boson is created it immediately disintegrates • about 1 every 500 Higgs bosons decays to two photons • the detector measures their energies • we compute the mass of the particle that they came from
  18. 18. ..
  19. 19. A Discovery! • July 4, 2012
  20. 20. July 4, 2012 there is definitely something!
  21. 21. CERN, Geneva, July 4, 2012, At the announcement of the experimental confirmation of the Higgs Boson “I am very happy” Gerald Guralnik
  22. 22. Guralnik's interview, CERN, 2012-July-03 HZv5Y
  23. 23. Why is it called the “God” particle? Nobel Laureate physicist Leon Lederman wrote the popular sceince “God Particle” book in 1993 to gain support for the national expenditure of the billions of dollars required to construct a Texas super particle collider to prove the Higgs Boson’s existence. “This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn't let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one...”
  24. 24. Why is the Higgs boson called the God Particle? “Because we cannot see it And everything depends on it.” Theologian Elaine Pagels in Newsweek
  25. 25.
  26. 26. Science News November 2, 2013 On July 4, 2012, Gerald Guralnik was in a packed room at CERNsavoring the discovery of the Higgs boson, which confirmed a theory he proposed nearly 50 years ago. No such celebration occurred Oct. 8. Guralnik was home when he learned online that physicists François Englert and Peter Higgs had won the Nobel Prize in physics for formulating the same theory. “I’m happy for Englert and Higgs, but it does sting a little bit,” he says. “Physicists are only human.” Presumably, Englert and Higgs got the nod because they published their 1964 theories of a mass-bestowing field first, before Guralnik and two colleagues. (Nobels have a maximum of three recipients.) Guralnik had come up with the gist of the Higgs field in 1962, during his doctoral research, but an adviser forced him to take that portion out, saying “I don’t know what’s the matter with it, but it’s not right.” Guralnik later revisited that research, but faced yet more skepticism. He sat on the paper for months, incessantly searching for mistakes, before finally submitting it to Physical Review Letters. The day he mailed the manuscript, he received an advance mimeographed copy of Englert’s paper — the one that would garner a Nobel Prize 49 years later.
  27. 27. No Physicist Is an Island By SEAN CARROLL, Published: NY Times, October 8, 2013 This year’s physics Nobel has just been awarded to François Englert and Peter Higgs, for what is simply called “the Higgs mechanism.” But while Mr. Englert and Mr. Higgs undoubtedly deserve acclaim, bestowing an award on them alone distorts the nature of modern physics research. …Except that it wasn’t only Mr. Englert and Mr. Higgs. Like many ideas in physics, the Higgs mechanism came together with contributions from many different people, including renowned physicists like Philip Anderson, Robert Brout, Gerald Guralnik, Richard Hagen and Tom Kibble. Mr. Anderson’s model was the first and least well developed; he also is already a Nobel Laureate for unrelated work, which may have made his case seem less pressing. Mr. Brout died in 2011, and the Nobel is never awarded posthumously. Mr. Guralnik, Mr. Hagen and Mr. Kibble had perhaps the most comprehensive picture of the Higgs mechanism, but their paper was written a few months after those of Mr. Englert and Mr. Brout (who were lifelong collaborators) and Mr. Higgs. Why not give it to them all? Because there is a tradition that the science prizes are given to individuals, not to collaborations — and to no more than three individuals in any one year.
  28. 28. Who invented the telephone? Alexander Graham Bell got to the patent office first. The date was February 14, 1876 . He was the fifth entry of that day. Elisha Gray was 39th to file on the same day. Therefore, the U.S. Patent Office awarded Bell with the first patent for a telephone, US Patent Number 174,465 rather than honor Gray's caveat.
  29. 29. PRACTICAL QUESTION. The interaction with the Higgs field gives fundamental particles their mass. If we could reduce the interaction of these masses with the earth’s gravitational field, it would have enormous practical consequences. Many people pay big money for weight loss schemes. How might this be possible? Prof. GERALD GURALNIK’S ANSWER. If I only had even a clue to the answer to your question I would share it with you and we both could buy as many Teslas as our friends and families could use! CONCLUSION: Physicists need to continue their efforts to unify the gravitational field with quantum mechanics.
  31. 31. “I find those rare dramatic moments of scientific discovery in my own experience to be moments of worship also, where a revelation about some intricacy of God’s creation is appreciated for the first time.” Dr. Francis Collins
  32. 32. The “God” Particle: The 48 year quest for the Higgs Boson Why important? Prediction 1964 Discovery 2012 Why called the “God” Particle ?
  33. 33. To Learn more • Guralnik’s account of his radical theory predicting the existence of the Higgs Boson uralnik • Paul H. Carr’s web page: