Of Particular Significance

Star Power

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

POSTED BY Matt Strassler

ON 04/09/2024

A quick note today, as I am flying to Los Angeles in preparation for

and other events next week.

I hope many of you were able, as I was, to witness the total solar eclipse yesterday. This was the third I’ve seen, and each one is different; the corona, prominences, stars, planets, and sky color all vary greatly, as do the sounds of animals. (I have written about my adventures going to my first one back in 1999; yesterday was a lot easier.)

Finally, of course, the physics world is mourning the loss of Peter Higgs. Back in 1964, Higgs proposed the particle known as the Higgs boson, as a consequence of what we often call the Higgs field. (Note that the field was also proposed, at the same time, by Robert Brout and Francois Englert.) Much is being written about Higgs today, and I’ll leave that to the professional journalists. But if you want to know what Higgs actually did (rather than the pseudo-descriptions that you’ll find in the press) then you have come to the right place. More on that later in the week.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the link to the old eclipse story your wrote. I grew into Dallas and the clouds parted at just the right time. It was glorious. Again. I got pretty emotional, just like I did in a Wyoming field 7 years ago.

    It’s difficult to describe in words what it’s like, so thanks for writing such a great story. I got emotional again reading about it, even though I wasn’t there. Thanks.

  2. 60 years ago, age of Peter Higgs then proves that science is moved by young people, not the old geezers. Like once Einstein said. Meanwhile we see hordes of geezers occupying youtube, podcasts, chairs, institutions, academies. Too late.

    1. Science is done by young people, no question. Fresh minds. But as for the “hordes of geezers” — this is exactly as it should be. Older folks like me can and should do public outreach and administration, leaving young people free to do their research without having to worry about such things. The real problem is the reverse: even with all that older people do, we still ask young people to do too much teaching and administration when they become assistant professors, slamming the brakes on their careers at precisely the moment they should be building up their research teams and doing their best work. Another problem is that we give older people all the power in terms of who to hire. Many mistakes are made when older people hire their younger clones, ignoring the really bright new talent in new areas.

  3. Another one bites the star dust. I just had to revise an old web comment where I had forgotten the effects of the Higgs field and it felt poignant that his work is still useful.

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