Higgs Boson

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As you sit at your desk, you are displacing the air around you, creating a void in the atmosphere. Like water, air wants to fill the space, so it presses evenly against you. When you move your hand, air piles up in front of your hand, and creates a void behind your hand. In a small way, you are creating an imbalance in the air pressure around your hand. The Higgs Boson is similar in that it is ubiquitous throughout the Universe. As matter moves through the Universe, it disrupts the Higgs field. Instead of changing the pressure around the object, it creates mass. When the object passes, the field stabilizes again, just as air returns to its former state after your hand passes.

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The implications are that objects in space have mass because of their interaction with this Higgs field. There is no grand tabletop upon which the Universe unfolds, everything is in constant motion around something else. The Earth, which seems so solid, is in orbit around the Sun, which is orbiting the black hole at the center of our Galaxy, which is orbiting in our local group of Galaxies. Since everything is moving, it all constantly interacts with the Higgs field, creating mass. Without motion, objects in space would have no mass because the Higgs field would stabilize around them. It’s in the disruption of the field that objects gain mass. That’s what makes the detection of the Higgs Boson particle so difficult. If you shoot an elementary particle through a space, it only disrupts the Higgs field for an instant before it moves out of the detection area. Scientists collide particles in the detection area to enhance the effect. When two particles collide in a detector, their mass is combined for an instant before they annihilate each other. At the Large Hadron Collider, they’re trying to detect the particles that are created after the collision. The theory is that Higgs Boson particles decay into other detectable particles in the aftermath of the collision. It’s a difficult experiment because we don’t currently have a method to detect the Higgs Boson directly. Most of the elementary particles that we’ve detected have been found by smashing larger particles and observing the things that get thrown off of the collision. It’s akin to smashing a rock with a hammer and picking through the debris. That’s the method we use to refine our theories, though. As we become more familiar with the properties of elementary particles, we will develop more refined methods of detecting them. The Higgs Boson isn’t the end of discovery, it’s just another step on the path to understanding the fabric of the Universe.

In an Instant

As I was driving to Lollypop last Sunday, my car hit a milestone of sorts. 22,222 miles. Ipulled over and took a picture. I’ve been noticing symetrical numbers for years. It’s a strange phenomenon. At first, I thought I was just noticing 11:11 because that’s when the first commercial break of the late night news happens. Now it happens all the time, even on clocks that aren’t right. I see 1:11 through 12:12 on clocks all the time. It freaked me out enough that I switched from a digital watch to an analog one.

I decided a while back that this synchronicity happens when there’s a transition in my life. It’s not always really significant. The clock read 3:33 when I got out of the car today, transitioning from the garage to the house.

Time, indeed events, are not so static as we make them out to be. Take the firing of a canon. The light, which I captured in these pictures, reached me first. Then the sound and shock waves. Since those waves hit the spectators at different times, we all experienced the canon firing at different times. So, me noticing odd times on clocks may represent anything. Maybe they represent events that happened eons ago in a far away Galaxy, and I’m just noticing them now.

Seeing the Trees

If you take a look at your hand, you’ll see something solid.  It looks solid, anyway.  The atoms that make up your hand aren’t that close together, though.  If we could shrink ourselves down so small that atoms looked like trees, the inside of your hand would look like this forest.  The atoms aren’t jammed together, they’re just loosely bound together.  Those three trees in the foreground might be a water molecule.  When we touch a table, the cloud of atoms in our hand interacts with the atoms of the surface.  The two clouds don’t interact much because the bonds between the respective molecules is strong.

Still, there is quite a bit of… nothing inside all of us.

A Projection

I’ve been pondering a concept of mind for some weeks now.  Plato said that everything around us is nothing but a dream.  It seems so easy for me to envision, but when I tried to explain it to others over my vacation, they couldn’t understand what I was trying to say.  We feel that the world around us is real.  We can touch it, see, it hear it.  Once the momentary sensation is gone, the world fades to a memory, and exists only in our minds.  So, how far of a leap is to say that everything around us is nothing but a projection of our minds?  The person sitting next to you is no more than a dream, because you can never really experience that person, except through the filter of your mind and body.  The objects in our world have that same nebulous quality.  Think of the things in this world that you’ve never seen or experienced.  No one has ever actually seen an atom, or the particles that make up that atom.  They only exist in our minds, because we have no other way to experience those tiny bits.  That’s why physicists joke that quantum mechanics is the dreams that stuff is made of.  If atoms are dream objects, then we can imagine that the objects they form when they clump together (everything) are dream objects, too.

Fractal Accretion

All stars form from dust.  In nebulae, dust gathers together into clumps, which collide and cling together to form an ever larger proto star.  At this stage, the future star has no energy, it’s just a ball of ice and rock.  Something happens as the proto star gets larger.  At a certain point, the size of the star gets large enough that gravity begins to compress the center.  As the star gathers itself from the surrounding cloud of dust, the pressure inside builds until the star lights.  The light is actually atoms inside the star being crushed into energy.

In normal matter like iron, the atoms are fairly far apart.  Matter is a surprising loose conglomeration of atoms.  An atom is 99%… nothing.  If we could blow up an atom’s nucleus to the size of a tennis ball, the electrons would orbit somewhere out by Jupiter.  This is important to a star because it’s in the business of crowding atoms together until their electrons interfere with their neighboring atoms.  As the star’s mass and gravity increase, the atoms at the center are forced closer together.  As they “rub” together, they heat up until they start to break down, creating new elements and energy that expands.  That’s the delicate balance that keeps a star together.  Gravity wants to crush the star, fusion wants to blow it apart.  These two forces keep the star in balance until hydrogen, a star’s fuel, runs out.  That’s when gravity finally wins and crushes the star.  A star’s death can take several forms, depending on its size.

It’s the balance inside a star that I was thinking about today.  Energy escapes the gravity well of a star, but the matter being carried along with it gets pulled back into the center by gravity.  There’s a metaphor for the way the Universe works in that balance.

We’ve wondered about the boundaries of the Universe since our first inklings of how big it really is.  Red Shift tells us that galaxies are moving away from each other, accelerating outwards in all directions.  Imagine that the Universe has a central gravity well like a star.  It would be a black hole of immense proportions.  Gravity tries to pull all the galaxies into that black hole, while an analog of fusion pushes them outwards.  Galaxies are the atoms of the Universe in this model.  Energy escapes from the Universe as energy escapes from a star.

Here’s where it gets even more speculative.  Forces in the Universe are categorized as the “Weak force” (gravity) and the “Strong force” (Magnetism).  Instead of just emitting energy like a star, the Universe could be emitting gravity.  That would solve the problem of why gravity is so much weaker than magnetism…  Gravity is emitted by the Universe, while the magnetism remains inside the Universe’s “corona”.  If we someday discover a massive black hole out there somewhere, and determine that it lies at the “center” of the Universe, then we can ditch string theory and develop a new unifying theory of physics.

Just a thought.

Synchronicity


Wikipedia Entry

“Temporally coincident occurrence of a causal events.”

In other words, two random things occur simultaneously, so that a human draws some connection between the two. My favorite synchronicity when I was a teenager came when I was driving. As I would approach a red light, sometimes, I’d point at the light, and it would turn green. It didn’t always work, but from my perspective, I had the power to change stoplights in my favor.

Here’s where things go a little awry. You’re (rightly) saying to yourself that I couldn’t change a stoplight anymore than I could fly over the intersection.

From the double slit experiment, we know that the act of observing an event, changes the event. I observed the two things simultaneously, so they had meaning together. I garnered the meaning of the event, even though the stoplight is undoubtedly clueless about the role it played in my enlightenment.

Synchronicity doesn’t necessarily describe simultaneous events, though. Einstein proved that there is no such thing as simultaneous events. Changing the light with my pointing finger only has meaning from my perspective, my relative perspective. So, synchronicity really describes a mental state not unlike déjà vu, where we create meaning from within ourselves.

Nows the point where quantum mechanics goes and complicates things again… Remember that by observing the light change, I’ve changed the event. That doesn’t imply that I have the power to change the light, but something more along the lines of a temporal causality. My mind created the temporal intersection of the light changing and my finger pointing. Since reality only really exists from my perspective, and can only exist if I’m there to witness it, that light did indeed change for me.

Maybe part of me noticed that the light was changing for the other direction, maybe I have some seamless connection with the rhythms of the stoplight. Quantum Mechanics theorizes that the event had both causation and correlation.

In other words, Jung hears my tale and says that I experienced a momentary mental feeling of causation. Pointing and changing lights only have meaning in my mind. Quantum theory hears my story, and says that there is correlation between me and the stoplight, just not enough to change the light, normally. Under certain circumstances, I would be able to use my influence to change the light. Those circumstances can happen at any time and in any intensity. Our awareness of the state change is not required, just the result. Who’s to say that a momentary change in my quantum state didn’t change that light?

The Blinding Light

I’ve talked a couple times about nuclear weapons.  They have a terror and a beauty that’s hard to deny.  There’s much more going on there than merely an explosion, though.  That device is emitting energy at all wavelengths.  Since light is the fastest, you see it first.  After that comes all the other energy on down the scale.  X-rays, Gamma rays, Shock Waves, Sound Waves, Matter.  That’s right, matter exists on the same scale as energy.  Think of it as frozen energy.  Just as steam can become water, energy can condense into matter.  Reverse the process.  Boil some water.  What once was a cohesive liquid becomes energy and matter (heat and steam).

Now, think of energy on a scale, like the light spectrum.  Red is very energetic, it’s at the top of the range we can perceive with our eyes.  X-Rays are a little higher up the scale.  Purple is near the bottom of our ability to visually perceive.  Light becomes heat, infrared, as you go down the scale from purple.

Now that we’ve started, keep going down the scale.  Eventually, you get into radio waves.  Yes, you could perceive the waves made by your favorite radio station if your eyes could just see in that scale.  The sky would be filled with overlapping waves, and every tower would look like a giant light bulb.  Try imagining that some day, very cool way to look at a radio tower.

Keep falling down the scale.  You pass through all kinds of ever deepening waves until you get to the energy you can feel when you stand in the ocean.  When you stand in the waves, you can feel the energy pushing and pulling on you.  That type of energy is also released by an atomic weapon. Now we’re deep on the scale of energy, far away from where we started with a rosy cheek.  The energy waves have gotten progressively longer until now you have to feel it with your legs instead of see it with your eyes.

Lower down the scale, energy eventually begins to coalesce into matter.  You can watch it happen in a plasma ball.  The glow is caused when the gas atoms’ electrons are stripped away.  The atoms regain their matter status when the missing electrons are returned.  Matter and energy freely interchange, propelled by the electrified ball in the middle.  Plasma is considered an intermediate state, balanced on the knife edge between energy and matter.  There are some theories that 99.9% of the Universe is made up of plasma or energy.  When we’re lucky enough to have some of that coalesce into matter, we get all the things around us.

It takes a lot of energy to make even the tiniest scrap of matter, but that is how we all got here.  So, given a certain viewpoint, we can all think of ourselves as frozen energy.