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3 Questions: Steven Nahn on the elusive Higgs boson

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posted on Oct, 19 2009 @ 04:34 PM

Two physicists recently put forth a new theory on why the accelerator has encountered so many delays. Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, suggest that the hypothesized Higgs boson would have such harmful effects that the particle is essentially traveling back through time to stop its own creation.

In this interview, MIT particle physicist Steven Nahn, a leader of the team working on the collider's CMS (compact muon solenoid) detector, says that while there is a long history in physics of "crazy" theories becoming widely accepted, he's not convinced by this one.

Q. Should we take seriously the idea that the Higgs boson is trying to sabotage its own production?

A. The premise is fairly crazy, but many things in physics are constructed that way: Make up a universe where the laws of physics are a bit changed compared to our current understanding, and see where that takes you. That's a common practice amongst the theory crowd. You'd have to check with a historian to be sure, but I can imagine a similar reception to quantum mechanic — but then it explained all sorts of things, like why atoms don't collapse, the Balmer series of quantized radiation from electron transitions, the structure of the periodic table, etc. QM explained certain mysteries already exposed by experiments, and made predictions that could be tested (and were). Similar descriptions apply to both special and general relativity, both of which were probably "crazy" at the time. In special relativity, there is the famous "twin paradox," a prediction that if you take a set of twins, leave one on Earth and send one traveling through space at nearly the speed of light, when the second one returns he will be younger than the one left behind. Sounds "crazy," meaning outside of our normal experience. But in 1972, they put some atomic clocks on planes, flew them around the world, and indeed found that the moving ones were behind relative to ones left on the ground. Experiments like these are essential to have a theory accepted into the canon of physics.

I really can't wait for the LHC to start getting data. Nothing excites me more than new physics with concrete data to back it up. One more cog in the universes clockwork down an unknown number left to find and explain.

[edit on 19-10-2009 by constantwonder]

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