Friday, February 23rd, 2018

The God Particle


The God Particle – 10

At long last we get to the God Particle, aka the Higgs boson. At the time of writing (1993), and when it was updated (2005), the so-called standard model of how the universe works was not quite complete.

The top quark is still missing as of early 1993. One of the neutrinos (the tau) has not been directly detected, and many of the numbers we need are imprecisely known… The Higgs idea, and its attendant particle, the Higgs boson, is relevant to all the issues we have just listed, so much so that we have named this book in its honor: the God Particle.

That’s all that is absolutely needed to bring us up to 1993, or 2005, but it is now 2013 – eight years later, and I really should try to bring the search up to the present. I have sort of a vague impression that at least the Higgs boson has been spotted, but I believe the holy grail of the universal model of everything is still in the future. Before I go on, I can’t resist this quote from Lederman:

Nothing has so few properties (deans and politicians excepted) as the neutrino. Its presence is less than a whisper. As kids we recited:

Little fly upon the wall
Have you got no folks at all?
No mother?
No father?
Pooey on you, ya bastard!

And now I recite:

Little neutrino in the world
With the speed of light you’re hurled.
No charge, no mass, no space dimension?
Shame! You do defy convention.

I’m beginning to think that particle physicists have a distorted sense of humor. Oh well, so do I.

In the wind-up to this delightful book, Lederman outdoes himself in generating delightful quotes, including another conversation with Democritus, who has been kibbitzing with acerbic comments from time to time. So I will close this review with just one more quote (I promise.) Lederman’s parting comment on scientists is this:

The range of abilities among scientists is also huge. This is okay because science needs the mixers of cement as well as the master architects. We count among us minds of awesome power, those who are only monstrously clever, those possessed of magic hands, uncanny intuition, and that most vital of all scientific attributes: luck. We also have jerks, assholes, and those who are just dumb . . . dumb!
“You mean relative to you others,” my mother once protested.
“No, Mom, dumb like anyone is dumb.”
“So how did he get a Ph.D.? she challenged.
“Sitzfleisch, Mom. Sitzfleisch: the ability to sit through any task, to do it again and again until the job is somehow done. Those who give out PH.D.’s are human too – sooner or later they give in.

So there you have it, a brief review of The God Particle in ten wearisome installments. I hope at least one of you will pick up the book and give it a go.

Dave, thinking about getting his Ph.D.


2 Responses to “The God Particle”
  1. Tom says:

    Go for it Dave! Always wanted to have a doctor in the family.

  2. Dave says:

    I’ve often wondered about the world of academia. My distorted engineer mentality never allowed me to seriously think about such things. I must admit that those guys seem to have a lot of fun, if I can believe everything I read. Sort of like being an artist?

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