Higgs boson should garner more excitement
Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 02:07
While America was busy celebrating its 236th birthday, Europe’s research lab Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire (CERN) announced its discovery of evidence that supports the existence of the Higgs boson after 50 years of theorizing.
Of course, as with most other little understood theories and presentations, the announcement was met with many a joke and mocking tweet. The blasé and unconcerned messages floated around, and many people seemed to take pride in their inability to understand — or care.
Oftentimes known as the “God particle” because it is thought to give mass to everything, the Higgs boson was supposedly seen with computer systems hooked up to the Large Hadron Collider, a huge tube that accelerates particles at almost the speed of light and causes them to collide, resulting in an explosion of sorts.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So who cares?
We all should.
Everyone on this planet has some vested interest in the Higgs boson, though no one can say for sure what that interest is yet.
The most relevant example of the importance of the Higgs boson comes from Nickolas Solomey, a physicist from Wichita State University who used to work at CERN. He compared the breakthrough to the discovery of
the electron by J.J. Thompson.
No one knew what the electron could do in 1897, nor what it would lead to or what changes and improvements it would reap. Eventually, that same mysterious particle with seemingly little real-life application led to the proliferation of electricity.
Clearly, that’s important.
Of course, it is slightly difficult to imagine the benefits of such a discovery in the long term.
According to Solomey, the Higgs boson could eventually be used to discover the undiscovered and so called dark matter of the universe, which, in turn, would answer questions about the origin of Earth, its beginning and maybe even its end.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the particle, Europe was willing to use $10 billion in 2007 to build the Hadron, and countless additional dollars to advance the search for the Higgs Boson, despite its decreasing funds.
More specifically, we, as Americans, should care.
For one, though the U.S. is not part of CERN, 2,000 of the 10,000 scientists involved with the project were American, and the country helped sponsor the project’s $10 billion cost.
A country which was at the forefront of the scientific foray about 20 years ago is no longer at helm.
This is especially disheartening given that in 1993, Congress turned down the construction of a Superconducting Super Collider in Texas, which University of Texas physicist and Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg said in a television interview could have discovered the Higgs boson.
Our society should care about the Higgs boson and its accompanying implications, including the possibility, which becomes more and more likely with each new discovery, that we may one day travel at the speed of light or transverse the solar system.