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← The Hunting of the Higgs: what is it and why does it matter?

Alex, adv. diab.'s Avatar Jump to comment 8 by Alex, adv. diab.

Comment 6 by Steve Zara :

It's a good article, but there is this one thing mention that confused me for years:

Why particles transmit forces is like thinking of playing catch. If I throw a ball to you and you catch it, then you will be pushed backwards by the force of my ball, and I will by pushed backward by the act of throwing the ball.. Thus we act like we repel each other in this case.

I understand the need to simplify things, but It's not really like that. It can't be, otherwise how could anything ever attract?

Excellent, Steve. This is exactly what has always bothered me about this picture. The upshot is - virtual particles are not like balls ;)

If you and I throw a ball back and forth, we aren't even going to be pulled together.

A better way to think of what is happening is that it's not a ball that is being thrown, but a note on a bit of paper: a message. A message about change. It could be a message that says "change momentum", or it could be a message that says "change charge". It's not the receiving of the message that changes things, like the catching of a ball, but the content of the message. It's rather like receiving a bank note. The worth of the note is not its weight, but what it says.

Well I don't know if the transmission it's really that abstract. In Feynman's picture, the virtual particle that is exchanged really carries the momentum from one particle to the other. It's just that for virtual particles, the transmission of momentum can not simply be thought of as the particle moving from point a to point b like a ball.

Comment 4 by Quetzalcoatlus :

Why some people call the Higgs Boson the God Particle?

To boost book sales.

Maybe it is because it allows to create a Universe from nothing?

No, forget the name, it's stupid.

If only one particle is found would that mean that the superstrings theory is wrong?

No, it's (un)fortunately not that easy to rule out the superstring experimentally.

How all these discoveries are changed after the discovery of particles that travel faster than the speed of light? Do we need a new Einstein to make sense of all these discoveries?

Assuming that the superluminal results are correct, their impact depends a lot on the precise reason why they are superluminal. It could be a real revolution, or it could be a minor adjustment of the present theory.

Tue, 13 Dec 2011 10:25:44 UTC | #898542