Thursday, 22 December 2011

Is the Higgs boson a door to a final theory?

By Luke Kristopher Davis

If there was such a thing as the physicists secret service then topping their most wanted list would be the  Higgs boson. This small particle is responsible for giving the W+- and Z bosons mass, which is due to the breaking of electroweak symmetry known as the Higgs mechanism. This mechanism, in theory, requires the higgs boson.

The standard model, which is a theoretical infrastructure of the fundamental particles, has been tested ferociously and has survived these experiments. The Higgs boson seems to be the last missing piece of the model. However recent news from the ATLAS and LHC accelerators shows that the boson could be slightly lighter than predicted, i.e. it should be around 130 Gev but the data is showing the value to be approximately equal to 125 Gev (Boson has not been directly observed yet). This has implications...   in order for the universe to be in its present existence there must be a slightly heavier particle associated with it, this is to ensure that the quantum vacuum from where particles appear is stable. Otherwise the universe would have fizzled out long ago. Scientifically this sheds light on the theoretical standard model, if the model does not adequately explain what is really going on then it is time to tweak the model or completely change it. So we may see the inclusion of more elementary particles or even a new group of particles in order to keep the standard model experimentally in check.

What about the other fundamental theories of nature which probe the fundamental laws in a slightly new light? Brane theory (string theory) and it's variations are still contenders for correct theories, however it is extremely difficult to verify as the theory has not yet predicted a phenomenon which can be observed to a good experimental degree of certainty.

Steven Weinberg (from an insert in the new scientist) says; "I think there are alternatives to the Higgs",  such as the technicolor force which strongly binds quarks together in the nuclei of atoms, they would fill space and give other particles mass as the particles traveled through the quarks. All in all we can say we are expecting some new and exciting physics.

There is an interesting question we can ask, which through its contemplation will challenge our deepest assumptions and ideas of the universe and of nature. This new physics (which will most probably come in the next 2 years) will it be the final physics? The don of all theories... the ultimate model of nature? The answer is we do not know.

There is research being undertaken by some of the greatest brains in physics in Canada, which they are trying to answer what there was before the big bang... or whether there was a big bang in the traditional sense. Some of this research implies that our universe was a product of another universes collapse, being surrounded by other universes. How do we know that the other universes obey the same equations and the same physical law. They may differ slightly in their initial conditions and over time (a looooong time and assuming fractal/chaotic behaviour) they may behave in a different way to ours.

We may even find deviations of physical constants in our own universe. It seems then, improbable that a final theory may arise, yet I could offer arguments contrary and we may still not know if it is probable.
To a mathematical mind a final theory of nature is very appealing, the symmetries in particle physics are all pointing towards it. Symmetry itself is very appealing. However, even the field of mathematics isn't fully complete in the sense that there are mathematical fields to be strung together, more conjectures to solve.

It is distasteful and slightly giving up if one is to think there is an infinite amount of layers of reality to explain, infinity is never a good sign in the real world. I think that as scientists and curious people, we should be looking to explain the new phenomena we encounter from our current experiments and keep explaining! There may always be something to improve on, but we keep going! If there is a final theory it will definitely surprise us.

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