Friday, March 15, 2013

Higgs Boson Discovery Confirmed

It has been noted many times that one of the key differences between science and religion is that religion reaches a conclusion and sticks with it even in the face of conflicting evidence, while science reaches a conclusion and then expends an enormous amount of time and effort trying to disprove it. I would add that this is far more true of institutional religion than it is of more gnostic spiritual paths, but the basic premise is sound. The point of science is that only once a discovery has stood up to intense scrutiny can it be accepted as true.

Back in July, I covered the announcement from CERN that the Higgs Boson, the last particle predicted by the standard model of quantum physics, had officially been discovered. It's important to keep in mind, though, even the "official announcement" was contingent upon the full data set standing up to rigorous peer review. This week, CERN announced that the data had indeed stood up to this level of scrutiny, and that the Higgs discovery is for real.

The elusive particle, called a Higgs boson, was predicted in 1964 to help fill in our understanding of the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang. The particle was named for Peter Higgs, one of the physicists who proposed its existence, but it later became popularly known as the "God particle."

Last July, scientists at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, announced finding a particle they described as Higgs-like, but they stopped short of saying conclusively that it was the same particle or some version of it. Scientists have now finished going through the entire set of data year and announced the results in a statement and at a physics conference in the Italian Alps.

"To me it is clear that we are dealing with a Higgs boson, though we still have a long way to go to know what kind of Higgs boson it is," said Joe Incandela, a physicist who heads one of the two main teams at CERN that each involve about 3,000 scientists. Its existence helps confirm the theory that objects gain their size and shape when particles interact in an energy field with a key particle, the Higgs boson. The more they attract, the theory goes, the bigger their mass will be.

At the risk of sounding like one of those New Agers who insist that quantum physics in some way "proves" the existence of magick and other paranormal phenomena, I find myself wondering if the nature of the Higgs energy field might in some way be related to the probability manipulations that magicians work with. As the nature of this newly-discovered Higgs boson is explored more deeply and its relationship to Schroedinger functions and so forth is worked out it should become clearer whether or not such a comparison can be supported by hard experimental data or if a completely different approach is required.

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