The BBC Horizon programme on CERN and the Higgs Boson can be downloaded on BBC iPlayer. You may think Nuclear Physics is not your every day kind of entertainment, but it is a lot of money they are spending so you may at least want to get some idea whether it is worth it. It might get you thinking about what is real and what is not, and does real exist, or do we make up our own existence?
The Higgs Boson is also called the God Particle, because it seems to be involved in creating the reality between energy and matter. You might think, what on earth does that mean, so I will have a go, for reasons which will become a bit clearer later, I hope.
So this picture should make it clear:
OK, maybe not. It’s a long story, going back to the Greeks, Socrates, Archimedes, Aristotle, who found it difficult to get their heads round some basic problems, like, if you always had to go half way before you ever got anywhere, how do you ever arrive?
Things seemed to get a lot easier when Sir Isaac Newton came up with nice simple equations like F=ma, force equals mass times acceleration, and ideas like gravity, which made everyone think at the time that things were almost all sewn up, just a tweak here or there.
Then along comes Einstein with his nice simple equation E=mc2 which is energy = mass times the speed of light squared, which seems simple enough until you start listening to him saying speed is relative then energy must be relative and is that true or not and am I confused, yes.
The great thing about the Horizon programme is that you listen to these people talking about Bosons and Quarks and Leptons and they are pretty clear these things exist but you wonder, is it a bit like Derivatives, and Quantitive Easing, and Hedge Funds?
So are all these things imaginary or are they all made up? Or is the truth somewhere in between?
Different people believe different things all the way down the line. Some people believe everything is real and you are the problem in not understanding it. Others think that nothing is real and we make everything up in our heads. That becomes a bit of an excuse to believe in anything you want, anything that suits you, and it isn’t just politicians who believe that, fans of celebrities do seem to believe that their celebrity, footballer to chef, is actually the best and it is not a matter of opinion.
When I was a lot younger, a book was in fashion which was called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and it was not really about motorcycles or maintenance, it was about reality, or as he put it, Quality. Do things have different amounts of Quality?
The toughest thing about life is that in some ways things are a matter of opinion and in other ways they are not, you can argue what you like, and some of what you say will have some truth to it and some personal viewpoint which is entirely of your own making.
When I look at the press, and TV programmes, and Politics or just listen to people I think we have lost touch with the truth of the matter, that truth is somewhere in between myth and reality. What we can do is exercise the best judgement we can, honestly, and keep our minds open and aware, and keep learning.
Governments which seem to think that you can reduce everything to numbers have lost it. They have lost the understanding that neither ultimate truth nor totally relative truth is true, it is somewhere in between.
The Wiki reference to the Higgs Boson says it is ‘hypothetical’ which means scientists have not yet agreed it exists. The people on the Horizon programme are pretty confident that some time this year it will be declared to exist. And then physics moves on to the next problem!
It will be an interesting year, we might find at the end of it that the Higgs Boson exists and the Euro does not exist! Maybe the Mayans have got it right?