Thursday, September 25, 2008
Speaking of medicine and science, the science community is buzzing with the preliminary results of the super-collisions at CERN in Switzerland. After listening to a travesty about it on BBC radio, I realized this is actually interesting to people. People think it’s interesting to find “wormholes” in space-time, some sort of tear or break in the space-time continuum that allows people to travel in time. Funny enough, I came across the term first in science fiction. I wonder if scientists use it. I know some do.
But these guys are looking for a particle predicted by a retired physicist named Higgs (whose original 1-page paper was first rejected by CERN for publication; Higgs rewrote the paper by adding a few equations). This particle, the Higgs boson (the “God particle”) is supposed to help answer a lot of questions in particle physics:
Does mass come from the Higgs boson? (Right now, subatomic particles like quarks don’t seem to have mass but we know particles that are made from quarks have masses (like protons))
Why is gravity so much weaker than the other three fundamental forces: weak force, strong force, electromagnetic force?
What is the nature of dark matter and dark energy?
Is there really supersymmetry in nature (do all known particles have a supersymmetric partner-particle?
Are there extra dimensions (as predicted by string theory)?
So far all that’s happened is the firing of the first beams of protons clockwise around the accelerator and counterclockwise around the accelerator. And it was successful. So the actual first high energy collisions will be about two months later (6-8 weeks). And they expect to run collisions for three years to build up enough statistically sound evidence to say the Higgs boson exists if they are able to generate it. They believe it will be generated every few hours. But again, you’ll need a lot of data (and it happening again and again and again) before they say with statistical soundness that is the elusive or mythical Higgs boson.
Stephen Hawking believes it doesn’t exist. And so we will see.
So here we are again, going deeper on another quest. My guess is that science will never learn or find all because, strangely enough, the way the universe is created each discovery brings even more new questions than the ones it answered. And given that I remember the time that the rate of knowledge (across all fields) in the entire world used to double every seven years, though now it’s less than two years, I think science will be ever-reaching.