Presenting the Higgs boson

Reuters has an article on it here. Not my area of work from a while ago, but I had a few friends (postdocs, etc.) working on it (in a theoretical sense). One quit high energy physics to work on the “muck left over after the big bang”. The latter is where the money and jobs are, the former is for those who get lucky and find an academic home.

I find it funny how reporters tend to paint groups with broad strokes. Apparently, as a physicist, I am supposed to be rejoicing that its been found. Or … as I worked in a different area, which this theory doesn’t impact so much … well … its more like “hey the HEP guys and gals just found a new and important particle”.

This isn’t to minimize the discovery, but to point out that scientifically illiterate reporters often paint stories with broad strokes and miss the major nuances of the discovery.

There are various subfields of physics … few researchers … if any … contribute to more than one or two subfields, and there are many subfields of study within physics. There are many different interesting theories around, in different subfields, and their importance is mainly within their own community. Some subfields tend to talk of their community as being the community. This is, to some degree, amusing, and often annoying, such as when they talk with the (generally clueless) press. High Energy Physics (HEP) is one such subfield of physics. There are many others, some much larger than HEP. Some more important to technologists, such as Condensed Matter Physics (CMP) and Laser Physics. Some more important to medical practitioners, such as Medical Physics.

So hearing the Higgs has been found means, to me, that the HEP guys can now say that the Standard Model is probably correct in all aspects. Which (if I weren’t a recovering ex-CMPer) wouldn’t matter much to my day to day life.

This said …

… one of the oddest things I’ve heard recently has been an actual application of string theory. To superfluids. String theory is/was an “augmentation” if you will, of existing theories, attempting to explain everything in terms of a “higher end” framework. Encompassing quantum theory and general relativity, it had a “simple” way to explain particles. And it postulated a number of things like selectron, sprotons, sneutrons, and other analogs of what we have now. If we found these analogs, then string theory would get a boost. But we didn’t.

So someone took an Anti-deSitter metric space, worked out a few things, and voila. Predictions, that seemed to work.

So … while I am not all worked up over the Higgs, though I am happy that the HEP folks plugged an important hole, I don’t see the near term practical applications of the standard model to molecular dynamics. This doesn’t mean there isn’t any. In fact, there may be other, very similar and interesting things with phonon fields, or other neat things that the standard model may provide some sort of analogous and useful mechanism for.

That would be exciting to me.

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