Explain Yourself Hadron

Science wires reverberate with news of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) once again accelerating particles following a 2 year hiatus. Catching wind of LHC successfully out of the starting blocks this past Sunday, my initial reaction was “holy crap, that’s fantastic”. Officially LHC shut down in February 2013 for “upgrades” and maintenance in preparation for this week’s curtain – particle collisions at almost double the previous velocity.

In 2013, the Nobel prize in Physics went to Francois Englert and Peter W. Higgs for theories developed in 1964 on how particles acquire mass.

The awarded theory is a central part of the Standard Model of particle physics that describes how the world is constructed. According to the Standard Model, everything, from flowers and people to stars and planets, consists of just a few building blocks: matter particles. These particles are governed by forces mediated by force particles that make sure everything works as it should.

“The entire Standard Model also rests on the existence of a special kind of particle: the Higgs particle. This particle originates from an invisible field that fills up all space. Even when the universe seems empty this field is there. Without it, we would not exist, because it is from contact with the field that particles acquire mass. The theory proposed by Englert and Higgs describes this process.

On 4 July 2012, at the CERN laboratory for particle physics, the theory was confirmed by the discovery of a Higgs particle. CERN’s particle collider, LHC (Large Hadron Collider), is probably the largest and the most complex machine ever constructed by humans. Two research groups of some 3,000 scientists each, ATLAS and CMS, managed to extract the Higgs particle from billions of particle collisions in the LHC.

Even though it is a great achievement to have found the Higgs particle — the missing piece in the Standard Model puzzle — the Standard Model is not the final piece in the cosmic puzzle. One of the reasons for this is that the Standard Model treats certain particles, neutrinos, as being virtually massless, whereas recent studies show that they actually do have mass. Another reason is that the model only describes visible matter, which only accounts for one fifth of all matter in the cosmos. To find the mysterious dark matter is one of the objectives as scientists continue the chase of unknown particles at CERN.”


Back to my “holy crap, fantastic” – recognizing magnitude, does little to solidify that event in accessible terms. I can “holy crap” all week long, “fantastic” would be wrapping a middle aged head around theoretical physics. Toss me a crumb Hadron, you have my undivided attention. Out there somewhere is a merciful person or website  capable of patient baby steps from the Standard Model to ramifications of your greatness.

9 thoughts on “Explain Yourself Hadron

  1. As a CERN insider I am delighted with your excitement. This is truly great stuff. Aside from the science, it is also a human battle field. There are many competing theories of which the standard model is the mainstream.

    Myself I worked on on of the competing experiments: anti-proton physics. Anti-protons (or pbars, as we like to call them affectionately because they are written as a p with a bar above them) is the antimatter equivalent of the proton. Both are hadrons and the standard model predicts that they have the same mass and charge (although opposite).

    But do they?

    The pbar experiments try to measure mass very precisely by dropping them and measure the effective of gravity. If the standard model is right, then they should fall just like protons. But waht is they fall upwards instead? Or not as fast?

    The experiment is a little tricky because they weigh virtually nothing and they tarvel at some 10^8 km/hr so you have nanoseconds to measure it all.

    (Some of ) the people running these experiments very much hope that the mass of the pbar turns out to be different. It would make them very famous in disproving the standard model.

    The standard model guys and gells aren’t worried in the slightest because a) the model is right as far as they are concerned and b) if not, they’ll tweak it a little.

    The people behind the Large Hadron Collider are incredibly ambitious and competitive. They deeply and passionately want to find out and if it wasn’t for that passion and commitment, machines like the LHC (and its chain of injector accelerators http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Cern-accelerator-complex.svg note the AD ring: she’s my baby 🙂 ) could never work.

    What you are witnessing is as much the awesomeness of science as that of human species. For once!

  2. And to think, Erwin Schrodinger was desperately worried at the turn of the 20th Century that physics could no-longer be understood by the common woman/man on the street. He couldn’t even really understand it, so what hope did the rest of us have? I like to look at it like pieces to a huge puzzle. Down at ground level is cant’ really be understood, but assemble enough pieces and gain enough height, and a picture will emerge.

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