Large Hadron Collider, Part Deux: The Higgs

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Large Hadron Collider, Part Deux: The Higgs

It’s been a leeettle while, but continuing on from my LHC I post, I’m here to give you some links to the much talked about Higgs boson. The Higgs boson (a.k.a. the “God particle”) is one of the most exciting things in physics at the mo’ (as one of my advisers once said “It’s oh so sexy!”) Woah, that's hot!


I’ve been reading up on the Higgs field/boson for a little while now, and here are the best links I’ve found where you can learn more:

1. A good place to start, SciTechUK, Brian Cox explains particle accelerators and then focuses down on the Higgs.

2. I really like this Scientific American article “What exactly is the Higgs Boson? Have physicists proved that it really exists?” — This is baller. It’s a series of explanations from several eminent physicists. I generally need the same thing explained in several different times and in several different ways before I actually grasp/remember it. So you can pick and choose among the explanations to see which makes the most sense to you.

3. Higgs boson explanation from the

4. Wikipedia page for the Higgs boson. Awesome, as usual. Although this is kind of high-level, it’s a great place to learn more.

5.What will the LHC find?” from Cosmic Variance. This is an excellent, older post where the Higgs boson is listed #1 as what the LHC should find now that it’s turned on! There’s also a brief explanation. Honestly, I can’t believe I missed putting this post on my original LHC post. Check this out!

6.Where the Higgs at?” from the blog PhysicsBuzz. So this is actually just a short post on hip hop and physics, with a video of the Fermilab rap! So, you might learn a bit from the hilarious video, but this ain’t the only place you should go to learn about the Higgs.

On a different note, here’s a weird Higgs satire from the Morning News.

And now, a graph of the LHC live status. I need to read up a bit to find out exactly why the graph looks like that, but you can see what it is. There’s time on the bottom, and beam intensity on the vertical axis. Cool!

Props to the US LHC blog for the link.

Aaaaaand an LHC update!

Comments [16]

banana's picture

Is Higgs that important??

~3 weeks ago I chatted with a professor who was just about to head over to the LHC; the stuff he talked about was mostly too intense for me, but some of the things we talked about has led me to think that higgs isn't actually that important. This is my reasoning: 

There are some problems with the standard model of particle physics right:
1)Not mathematically consistent.
2) Rather ad hoc
3)Incompatible with gravity

So scientists used it as a basis for a better model: string theory. 

String theory (or M theory I guess) is the most promising example of a TOE (theory of everything) so why is there so much emphasis still being put on the flawed standard model? Wouldn't it be better if we sort of forget about the standard model along with higgs, and focus on string/M theory instead?

I guess I'm just confused about why they're working so hard to complete the standard model (by finding Higgs) if it only includes 3/4 of the fundamental forces so it's inherently flawed regardless. Or am I completely missing something (e.g "the bigger picture") here?

Also, are they going to build something that can output wayyy more energy Laughing out loud?

Stevie's picture

Standard Model vs. String Theory

Hi Banana,

That's a great question, and not one many people ask: why is the Higgs important? The easy answer to that is, well, "it's the last piece of the standard model." So you then raised another great point, and you're rightly concerned about it: why focus on the standard model which doesn't encompass gravity (yet) when there's string theory which appears to cover everything!  

Thing is, there is a lot of focus on string theory these days, at least in the theory sector of physics. There was a while there where the only way to get hired by a university (as a theorist) was to be a string theorist. (Note: there are generally two types of physicists, theorists and experimentalists. One's not better than the other, as they just do different things. Theorists work with mathematics to come us with testable theories, which are then thrown to the experimentalists who use mathematics and engineering to test those theories. Both are vital to physics.) But string theory, while incredibly interesting, has yet to provide the scientific community with any testable predictions. This is incredibly important. String theory is a beautiful theory, if correct, but we have no idea if it is indeed right! And, at the moment, there's no way for us to know. Many physicists will argue (and I'm one of them) that that makes string theory not as important at the moment. The only theories that matter to me are the ones that we can test and retest against the Universe around us, as that is the only way to learn more about the Universe around us. Of course, I most definitely think that string theory is very very worthy of study, but I'll ascribe it more importance when it predicts somethin.

Also, yes indeed, the standard model is kinda ad hoc. It's not incredibly streamlined and beautiful, but the crazy thing is that it works. As far as we know, it correctly describes the world around us, which we know because it's been tested again and again and again. The standard model predicts things, and those things turn out to be correct! Physicists would loooooove to find a flaw in the standard model, because that would mean there's more physics to be discovered! Which would just be lovely. We really like that (job security, you know).

Now, it's true, the standard model doesn't incorporate gravity quite yet, but there's plenty of work on this. There's a theoretical (i.e. we haven't yet discovered it) particle called a graviton, which might just be the fundamental particle for gravity. This particle is the attempt to merge two great physical theories, general relativity and quantum physics. But there are major mathematical issues here (basically, we get infinities in our equations, which sets off a big alarm indicating that there is something we just don't know). So, we're working on it. (Man, I wish I personally was! I think it's fascinating!)

Which brings me to your last question: any plans for an even BIGGER particle accelerator?! Well, to be honest, I haven't heard of anything yet. I'm sure that in, say, five or ten years after the LHC reaches full power physicists might start talking about an even more powerful accelerator... but we're not there yet. This one was so expensive that I think any talk of any other particle accelerator would be pretty bad PR at the moment. There's also a lot of work on new technologies to create even more powerful accelerators that take up less space and money (see link #3 below).

Does all that answer your questions? Those were great questions, by the by. And here are some links to learn more.

(1) Lisa Randal talking with Charlie Rose about her work and her thoughts on string theory:

(2) graviton: (honestly, the introduction at the beginning of this Wikipedia article was the best short explanation I found.)

(3) table-top accelerators: (this article's great!)




banana's picture

Wow, thanks :)

It completely makes sense now. The standard model gives us something to test whereas the string theory is just really pretty too look at (right now) Tongue ahaha.

ZaraThustra's picture


ok, what is the relation between H-B and dark matter? is there one? ..oh i'm so confused but i want to understand!

Stevie's picture

no relation, really...

Hi ZaraThustra,

So, there's no relation really. Dark matter is predicted to be (e.g. we're not positive yet) some massive, neutral particle that we haven't discovered yet. We know it must be pretty massive because we can "see" how dark matter is gravitationally attracted to objects. However, we can't see dark matter with our eyes (hence calling it "dark"), which means it must be electromagnetically neutral. 

The Higgs boson is a different particle altogether. Some work has been done to see if dark matter could just be Higgs bosons... but I'm pretty sure that that's mostly been debunked by now. 

Also, it should be noted, that both the Higgs boson and dark matter particles are both being sought at the LHC, and both would be big discoveries!

geek4grammar's picture

danger of black holes?

ok, so I'm really no scientist-- I got my undergrad in women's studies and my masters' in media studies-- but from what I've heard about the LHC, it seems like there is some chance it might create a black hole that would suck up the entire planet. do you think there is any validity to this assertion, stevie? I mean, not like I'm gonna be able to do anything about it if there is...just wondering if I should quit my job and go become a full-time existentialist in celebration of the end of the world as we know it Wink

We're all born naked. The rest is drag.
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

Not2Taem's picture


 I would lean more toward a really massive Irish wake.

Stevie's picture

nope, we ain't all gonna die.

Hey geek4grammar,

While it is true that minuscule black holes will probably be created at the LHC, these will NOT kill us all. In fact, these tiny black holes will come into existence, then evaporate (via something called Hawking radiation -- yup, the Hawking) a mere moment later. So you need not worry, m'dear. Rest easy. 

Here's a great article on the whole "black holes at the LHC" thing. He also gives a lot of great info on black holes in general, if you're interested. Ch-ch-check it out!


geek4grammar's picture

thanx ;)

...I can now sleep easy!

We're all born naked. The rest is drag.
--RuPaul (appropriating Judith Butler for the masses...)

ctorres1300's picture

Black holes simplified

A LHC black hole if formed can't suck in the planet.  Gravity controls the attraction between objects.  If you put two bowling balls near each on a flat table they don't move towards each other.  Now, lets keep the idea of attraction between objects in our mind.  The attractive force between the bowling balls scales at the mass and the inverse  distance.  Force ~ M/r^2.  If I make one bowling ball the size of the Earth then the other bowling balls falls towards it...  Now, here is the easy part.  The simplistic, and fairly accurate statement describing a black hole is this.  A black hole is a point is space that have infinite density.  Density is defined as Mass/Volumne. So I can take a speck of dust, if I compress it enough it will become a black hole.  That black hole, has so little mass it can't attract anything to it and hence can't 'swallow' any other matter around it.  This is the reason why the LHC scientists aren't afraid of a LHC created black hole.   Also,  not only will it be nearly massless, the size of a black hole (its radius) depends on its mass.  So the black hole will also be  infinitely tiny as well.  So there it is, an LHC black hole would be cool.  Because we made it artifically, but it would be nearly massless and infinitesimally small....  Now, that being said astronomically sized black holes can make some pretty neat stuff happen in universe around us.     LIGO, anyone?

But I'm not a biased about which project is cooler... nah... (

I'm just in love with all the geekery around the park lately....   make a nerd feel at home.

I'm tough, I'm ambitious, and I know exactly what I want.
If that makes me a bitch, okay.
~Madonna Ciccone

Conlite's picture

I'm also interested in

I'm also interested in Stevie's answer.  I've heard a few people freaking out about this scenario, but what I've heard from the scientists is that if a black hole is created it will be miniscule and will only exist for a microsecond before desintegrating.  ie. Nice for them to study at the LHC, but no threat to France's existence.  Hope this is true!  Smile

Stevie's picture


There certainly is!

Last Christmas, my friend was in between getting me an Einstein action figure and this t-shirt. He went with the action figure because he's cheap (I ain't complainin! that action figure's awesome!), but this shirt is great!

minniesota's picture


Haha, that shirt cracks me up. Laughing out loud

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Conlite's picture

Telekinetic sea sponge!!!

Telekinetic sea sponge!!! "Follow as directed and add beard"!!!!  Read the satire and I think I will be laughing for a week!!  Thank you!

Smile :)

Tex's picture

Higgs-Boson, huh?

I thought it was from doughnuts, pizza, and beer!

Twitter Time @kdhales

minniesota's picture

Love the Higgs

Gracias for feeding my Higgs Boson obsession! I went looking for a tee shirt online the other day because I figured there is a market for geeks like me.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.