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Interviews: Ask Physicist Giovanni Organtini About the Possible Higgs Boson Disc 170

Posted by timothy
from the so-what's-it-like-meeting-god dept.
Giovanni Organtini of Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics (well, Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare) has agreed to answer questions about the recent observations of a particle consistent with the Higgs Boson. Dr. Organtini is part of the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. He is careful to note that while the researchers "[believe] that this new particle, with a mass 125 times that of a proton, is the famous Higgs boson," they "need to study that new particle more deeply in the next months to be conclusive on that. Organtini likes free software (he's written Linux device drivers, too) and has his own physics-heavy YouTube channel, mostly in Italian. Please confine questions to one per post, but feel free to ask as many as you'd like.
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Interviews: Ask Physicist Giovanni Organtini About the Possible Higgs Boson Discovery

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @02:21PM (#40630413) Journal
    In regards to the Higgs Boson, what's the stupidest thing you've seen in the press? Has anything in particular made you really laugh or groan? Has the reporting been overly irresponsible for this discovery process or just the same old press that you're used to?
  • Open Data? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @02:28PM (#40630507) Journal
    Since you're a fan of free software, why don't we see more open data efforts in particle physics? I see headlines like this [] and they're kind of a turnoff. Aside from this super confusing applet [] I haven't been able to find torrents of the data available on these tests. Why is that? I mean, as a software developer there is a legitimate effort of folks writing open source software and then there's a legitimate effort of people using that software to accomplish many things and everyone deserves credit. So why are particle physicists so keen on being the collectors and (at least initially) the sole keepers of their data? It would seem to make sense to me that people should be rewarded based on their collection of data and how meticulous and well they do that while any group can consume and derive results from said data. I understand the process has gotten more open but why so slowly? Why not torrent your data to whoever wants it immediately after you get it?
  • by Dartz-IRL (1640117) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @02:29PM (#40630509)

    While I know it is rather early to comment, what do you think the future applications of today's research into Higgs Boson will be?

    Don't be afraid to be a little bit sky-high. I for one am already fantasising about space ships propelled by manipulation of the Higgs field on a local scale.

    I'm only asking because, a century ago the electron was discovered and nobody was quite sure what to do with it. And it runs the world.

  • Is it higgsy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rwven (663186) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @02:30PM (#40630523)

    What success or failure factors can/should/will be used to determine whether or not the new particle is actually the higgs, or something else unexpected?

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <> on Thursday July 12, 2012 @02:34PM (#40630553) Journal
    So say hypothetically that with this discovery we quickly unify the four fundamental forces of our universe. Does the 'particle hunt' end there? Is there any reason there aren't more fundamental particles -- even ones that might not be predicted by the Standard Model but do exist? If your answer is "no one knows," what is your gut feeling and why?
  • by ThorGod (456163) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @02:34PM (#40630555) Journal

    What does it mean to say a particle that gives all other particles mass...has mass itself?

  • Dr. Joe Incandela of UC Santa Barbara and CMS director said recently of the CERN Higgs results:

    "This is so far out on a limb, **I have no idea where it will be applied**, We're talking about something **we have no idea** what the implications are and **may not be directly applied for centuries**."

    (source: [])

    My questions: Do you agree that the direct application of the findings are as nebulous and abstract as he describes?

    Please discuss the implications of your answer and how they relate to the economic choices of how humans use their scientific resources.

  • With every passing news item about particle physics, it seems everyone's pet theory mutates or breaks off into different sects. I read some Brian Greene in high school and have since become a little flustered with string theory ... or rather the many variations. The cynic in me fears that any new information on the Higgs Boson (or lack thereof) will result in more not less theories that should unify the four fundamental forces. Could you explain how information on the Higgs (one way or the other) would rule out certain symmetries or models that many people have been theorizing? Can I expect this to at least reduce our set of possible theories and not just provide N more mutations for each existing theory that strives to account for what we just found? Or should I just buckle up for everyone pushing their version through these results no matter what they show?
  • by bugnuts (94678) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @02:58PM (#40630815) Journal

    Once this particle is examined, and let's assume it's the elusive Higgs, is there a continuing reason for large particle accellerators?

    Basically, I'm asking in ignorance. If this confirms the standard model, what do you see for discoveries of this nature in the.future?

  • by c0d3r (156687) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @03:01PM (#40630849) Homepage Journal

    In regards to the discovery of the Higgs Boson, what is an example of a practical application of this discovery. I find that physics is best explained with real-world examples.

  • by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @03:08PM (#40630913)

    The Higgs mechanism is what gives particles mass, not to be confused with the Higgs boson ;)

    Two different things, named the same because of how related they are.

  • The Higgs boson is famously associated with how particles acquire a 'mass'. But mass is, in itself, an interesting property. As I understand it, the Higgs boson is only associated with inertial mass. If this is so, do you expect gravitational mass and inertial mass to be always the same? If so, would you speculate on the mechanism that ensures this is true?

  • by TemperedAlchemist (2045966) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @03:50PM (#40631383)

    Intuitive physics breaks down, so I'll try the best I can to explain this.

    In quantum field theory, stuff goes down differently, very differently. The fundamental things (entities, stuffs) are fields. You're perhaps intimately familiar with one of them, the EM field. And I'm sure you know about wave-particle duality, so this next part may make sense. Photons are thought to be oscillations in the EM field. But of course, go into the details and things get loopy.

    A proposed ubiquitous Higgs field is one of these such fundamental stuffs, and the Higgs boson is to the Higgs field as a photon is to the EM field (not quite the same, though).

  • Higgs and the Ether (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Liquidrage (640463) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @03:55PM (#40631445)
    The likely Higgs discovery would seem to validate Quantum field theory.
    Would this then be best described as an ether, only instead of matter traveling through the ether, matter is manifestations of the ether (fields) itself. Would this also than mean that the motion of matter is not a physical movement of a "particle" but instead the transfer of the "excitement" of a field from one spot of the field to another?

    And what, if any, implications does this disocvery have for unifying gravity or other areas of physics?
  • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @04:41PM (#40631967)

    As I understand it, a Higgs Boson compatible with the standard model could have been found at a range of different masses, and the search for it has involved searching the possible mass range until it was either discovered or not.

    Assuming that this new discovery is indeed the Higgs Boson as predicted and compatible with the standard model, what is the significance of the particular mass that it has been found to have? Are there any macro-scale predictions that depend on its mass?

  • by solidraven (1633185) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @05:21PM (#40632351)
    How do you feel about the fact that a large portion of the CMS was built by recycling military hardware? Do you see it as a sign that the world is finally moving towards peace and that large scientific projects like the LHC are helping it along that path; Or do you find it disappointing that it was the only option to acquire the necessary materials?
  • SSC (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @06:18PM (#40632919) Journal

    Had the superconducting supercolider (SSC) been completed in the USA in the 1990s, would it have found this particle? Even with a 20 year technology advantage, LHC has taken some time to get there.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday July 12, 2012 @07:04PM (#40633335)
    I heard they may want to check several other decay paths for energy resonances.
    I also heard there could be a family of Higgs bosons, so we may look for others?
  • What next for LHC? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by iris-n (1276146) on Friday July 13, 2012 @12:05AM (#40635575)

    Assuming that this new particle is in fact the Standard Model Higgs boson, what more can we expect to discover with CMS? Is there any new physics you expect to be within the reach of CMS? Or this is pretty much the end?

    I know this question is unanswerable, but your best guess would make me happy. I'm actually very worried by the prospects of running out of (falsifiable) theories to test...

  • dumb question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:39AM (#40636039)
    This is an IT worker question, not a particle physicist question, so hopefully it's an easy one. How does the Higgs boson come into play when photons, which have a tiny amount of mass, are spontaneously created when a substance like metal gets hot. Is it a direct energy to mass conversion?
  • by jkauzlar (596349) on Friday July 13, 2012 @01:09PM (#40640375) Homepage

    ... the answers to the dumbest questions are sometimes the most interesting :) I understand that the Higgs is responsible for giving mass to all the other particles, then it must be *everywhere*. Why is it so difficult to detect? Why does it take such a staggeringly powerful supercollider to find what ought to be as common as the electron or proton?

    Also, I can't help but to visualize particles as something like billiard balls while I'm aware they're only mathematical abstractions from our point of view and that experiments like the double-slit experiment refute the billiard-ball model... is there a way to visualize the Higgs to make the answer to my previous question easier to understand?

  • by FreedomFirstThenPeac (1235064) on Friday July 13, 2012 @04:13PM (#40642791)
    One press report discussed the idea that the Higgs field might have the same transient existence that the aether did in Electro-Magnetic theory. Do you think there is a field that will interact with the Higgs field to produce an energy transmission function similar to that described by Maxwell's equations?

"Life is a garment we continuously alter, but which never seems to fit." -- David McCord