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Posts Tagged ‘LHC’

We can’t let the official “switch-on” of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) pass without comment. The goal of the LHC is to find the Higgs Boson, the last particle of the standard model of particle physics (“the standard model”) that has yet to appear in the debris of a collision in a particle accelerator. The standard model is a phenomenally successful theory – the existence and properties of the menagerie of particles that emerge from particle accelerators can be predicted with astonishing accuracy, using mathematical equations.

If the Higgs Boson is found, it will join the other successful predictions of modern physics. The fact that successful predictions are commonplace makes it easy to overlook the astonishing fact that mathematical equations and physical reality are somehow intertwined. Paul Davies, in his book “The Goldilocks Enigma” remembers sitting in his school library, using Newton’s laws to predict how far away a ball thrown on sloping ground will land. A girl he had taken a fancy to asked what he was doing. He explained. She was skeptical: “how can you possibly know what a ball will do by writing things on a sheet of paper?”

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