On Wednesday February 6th, at 9 pm Eastern/6 pm Pacific time, Sean Carroll and I will be interviewed by Alan Boyle on “Virtually Speaking Science”. The link where you can listen in (in real time or at your leisure) is http://www.blogtalkradio.com/virtually-speaking-science/2013/02/07/sean-carroll-matt-strassler-alan-boyle
What is “Virtually Speaking Science“? It is an online radio program that presents, according to its website:
- Informal conversations hosted by science writers Alan Boyle, Tom Levenson and Jennifer Ouellette, who explore the explore the often-volatile landscape of science, politics and policy, the history and economics of science, science deniers and its relationship to democracy, and the role of women in the sciences.
Sean Carroll is a Caltech physicist, astrophysicist, writer and speaker, one of the founders of the blog Cosmic Variance, who recently completed an excellent popular book (which I highly recommend) on the Higgs particle, entitled “The Particle at the End of the Universe“. Our interviewer Alan Boyle is a noted science writer, author of the book “The Case for Pluto“, winner of many awards, and currently NBC News Digital’s science editor [at the blog "Cosmic Log"].
I was interviewed on Virtually Speaking Science once before, by Tom Levenson, about the Large Hadron Collider (here’s the link). Also, my public talk “The Quest for the Higgs Particle” is posted in their website (here’s the link to the audio and to the slides).
Posted in Astronomy, Higgs, History of Science, LHC Background Info, Particle Physics, Public Outreach, Quantum Gravity, Science News, The Scientific Process
Tagged astronomy, DarkMatter, DoingScience, gravity, Higgs, LHC, particle physics, PublicPerception, PublicTalks
By almost all measures, the Higgs Symposium at the University of Edinburgh, as part of the new Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics, was a great success. The only negative was that Professor Peter Higgs himself had a bad cold this week, and had to cancel his talk, as well as missing the majority of the talks by others. Obviously all of us in attendance were very disappointed not to hear directly from him, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
Other than this big hole in the schedule, the talks given at the symposium seemed to me to form a coherent summary of where we are right now in our understanding of the Higgs field and particle. They were full of interesting material, and wonderfully complementary to one another. This motivates me to try to provide, for non-experts, some future articles on what the conference attendees had to say. But to write such articles well takes time. So for now, here’s the quick version summarizing the last few talks, along the lines of the summaries I wrote (here and here) of the earlier talks. The slides from all the talks are posted here.
Here we go: Continue reading
Posted in Higgs, LHC Background Info, LHC News, Particle Physics, Quantum Gravity, String Theory
Tagged ExtraDimensions, gravity, Higgs, LHC, LHCb, supersymmetry
One of the most prominent theoretical physicists of our time, Professor Joe Polchinski of the University of Santa Barbara, who has made lasting contributions to our understanding of quantum field theory, of gravity, and of string theory, gave a couple of talks at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton this week. The two presentations manifested a certain amusing (anti-)parallel; the first was on a puzzle that was thought to have been mostly solved 20 years ago, but turns out to have only been partly resolved; the second was related to a puzzle that was thought to have been solved last year, but turns out to have been partly solved over 20 years ago.
In the middle of all of this, it was announced that Polchinski was one of several people awarded one of these new-fangled Fundamental Physics Prizes that are getting lots of attention — specifically, one of the Frontiers Prizes, if you’re keeping score. You can read about that elsewhere. Here we’ll try to keep our focus on the science. Continue reading
When I wrote my article last week about the relation between the Higgs and gravity, emphasizing that there really was no relation at all, I said that the Higgs field is not the universal giver of mass. I cited four reasons:
- The Higgs field does not give an atomic nucleus all of its mass, and since the nucleus is the vast majority of the mass of an atom, that means it does not provide all of the mass of ordinary matter.
- Black holes appear at the centers of galaxies, and they appear to be crucial to galaxy formation; but the Higgs field does not provide all of a black hole’s mass. In fact the Higgs field’s contribution to a black hole’s mass can even be zero, because black holes can in principle be formed from massless objects, such as photons.
- There is no reason to think that dark matter, which appears to make up the majority of the masses of galaxies and indeed of all matter in the universe, is made from particles that get all of their mass from the Higgs field.
- The Higgs field, though it provides the mass for all other known particles with masses, does not provide the Higgs particle with its mass.
Although it doesn’t matter too much to the main point of the Higgs-and-gravity article (since the first three points are not in question), the editor of a leading physics journal, Robert Garisto, took issue with the fourth point, arguing that I was making a statement that really wasn’t right, or at least is too strong. His argument has some merit, though in the end, I stick with my statement. I think it’s worth describing what he had in mind (as best I understand it) and why I feel strongly that one should think about it differently. There are some semantic aspects to the disagreement, but there are also some interesting and important subtle scientific points. I don’t want to suggest that this discussion is really that big a deal — the very fact that we can argue about whether the Higgs field does or doesn’t provide the Higgs particle with its mass distinguishes the Higgs particle from, say, the W particle, whose mass indisputably arises from the Higgs field. But there’s something to learn here about quantum field theory and how the Higgs mechanism works. Continue reading
One of the questions I get most often from my readers is this:
- Since gravity pulls on things proportional to their mass, and since the Higgs field is responsible for giving everything its mass, there obviously must be a deep connection between the Higgs and gravity… right?
It’s a very reasonable guess, but — it turns out to be completely wrong. The problem is that this statement combines a 17th century notion of gravity, long ago revised, with an overly simplified version of a late-20th century notion of where masses of various particles comes from. I’ve finally produced the Higgs FAQ version 2.0, intended for non-experts with little background in the subject, and as part of that, I’ve answered this question. But since the question is so common, I thought I’d also put the answer in a post of its own.
As preface, let me bring out my professorial training and correct the question above with a red pen:
- Since gravity pulls on things proportional to their
mass to a combination of their energy and momentum, and since the Higgs field is responsible of giving everything not everything, just the known elementary particles excepting the Higgs particle itself its mass, there obviously must be a deep connection between the Higgs and gravity… right? wrong.
Now let me explain these corrections one by one. Continue reading
Quick post today:
First, there were rumors about the Higgs particle search on Monday that got a lot of attention. Caveat emptor: the experimentalists can’t possibly have their data in presentable form yet, so the rumors can’t be correct in every detail. But if you are interested in a reasonable analysis of what the rumors would roughly mean if they were roughly correct, click here. (I don’t personally see the point of doing lots of detailed analysis based on incomplete information, so if that’s what you want, I’m afraid you’ll have to find that on other blogs.)
Second, I’m still working on my sequence of extra dimensions articles; I’ve been working on a new one that explains what we can learn from Newton’s law of gravity (and Coulomb’s law for electric forces.) This article is still a bit preliminary (still needs a very careful proofread) but if you’re interested you can take a look and comment on what you find confusing.