Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The $6 billion LHC Circus

One of the good folks at the Electric Universe scoffs at the idea of the Higgs "God Particle," and says that the Large Hadron Collider is "a mammoth engineering and technological undertaking that I predict will serve in future as a monument to human lunacy":

Science has become an international circus. And opening day for “The Greatest Show on Earth” has arrived. In the 27 km main circus ring we have the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project, starting up after $6 billion dollars and thirty years of development. Before the show the clowns have warmed up the audience with fantastic stories of what we might see. But why should we take clowns seriously?

The BBC Horizon program, “The $6 billion Dollar Experiment,” documents the LHC experiment. The LHC accelerates beams of protons in opposite directions around a circular 27 km underground racetrack and then smashes them together head-on. The expense comes from the need to reach particle energies seven times that of earlier particle colliders and to construct a massive particle detector ‘cathedral’ underground. The energy density reached in the experiment is thought to mimic the earliest moments of the big bang – the origin of the universe.

Most of the experimenters involved are looking for the ‘God particle’. The Times Online reported on April 8, “The mysterious boson postulated by Professor Higgs, of the University of Edinburgh, has become so fundamental to physics that it is often nicknamed the ‘God particle’. After more than 40 years of research, and billions of pounds, scientists have yet to prove that it is real. But Professor Higgs, 78, now believes the search is nearly over.”

The “God Particle” or Higgs boson was invented by Peter Higgs to explain why other particles exhibit mass. He starts with assuming the existence of a particle that has only mass and no other characteristics, such as charge. So the Higgs particle is like no other in our experience, since all normal matter is composed of electric charges that respond to electromagnetic influences. (Dark matter falls into the same category.) However, we observe that the mass of a charged subatomic particle is altered by the application of electromagnetic forces. At its simplest (and Nature is economical in our experience) it indicates that mass is related to the storage of energy within a system of electric charges inside the particle. That’s what E = mc2 is telling us. So how can a massive particle be constructed without electric charge? It shows the problem inherent in leaving physics to mathematicians — there is a disconnect between mathematical concepts and reality.

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