Back to Our Roots, Back to the Big Bang

Back to Our Roots, Back to the Big Bang

By, Chris Michaels, Senior Account Manager, Fusion PR (@chrisamichaels)

and Jordan Chanofsky, CEO, Fusion PR

At Fusion, we pride ourselves in bridging both communications expertise with our technical experience. Many in our staff are former technologists, well versed in physics, computing, engineering, biotechnology, and a number of other highly-technical fields.

Normally in this blog, I’m one of the few contributers that will often pontificate on the menutia of technology, to bring to light some of the impressive developements that revolutionize the way we interact with tech toys. However, today we’re in for a treat.

In honor of the Hadron Collider testing that began today, our very own CEO, a former electrical engineer and physicist turned PR Guru, Jordan Chanofsky, has graced us with a little insight to why we should all care about this big tube of flying atomic parts.


Jordan: Well if you’re into physics today is a very special day. Because today the most powerful supercollider in the world is fired up and starts to look for strange new information in the world of quantum field theory, string theory, the evolution and future of our universe and why the Jets can’t win a superbowl.  If you want some details, I’ve left some really really really fun reading below:

One of the most fundamental properties of an elementary particle (i.e. particle that has no substructure) is its mass. Different particles have different masses, from the very light electron, to the nearly million times more massive top quark. The modern theory of particle physics called the Standard Model cannot explain the origin of mass and why various particles have the masses that they do. Instead, it postulates the existence of a new particle, the Higgs boson, and  the corresponding Higgs field that fills the Universe. Particles become heavy because they are coupled to (interact with) the Higgs field.  Anyhow, it also follows from this model that one can create Higgs particles for example in experiments at accelerators. Since the Higgs particle itself is predicted to be heavy, a great amount of energy must be concentrated into a small volume of space to have any hope of creating one. The only machine capable of doing this today is the Tevatron proton-antiproton collider at Fermilab, and a detectors that is specifically designed to watch for traces of Higgs particles.

But why are the Higgs particles heavy? Where do they get their masses from? No one really knows… but it’s worse than that! Within the SM framework the Higgs particle mass is not even finite. However, an extension of the model, called supersymmetry, helps to control the Higgs mass. The ‘symmetry’ of supersymmetry is that any particle with half-integer spin (like 1/2 or 3/2) has a partner, identical in all respects, but with
spin (like 0,1,or 2). It is called ‘super’ because it solves many problems in particle physics! We know that the theory of supersymmetry is not completely correct since there is not an integer-spin electron observed in experiments, for instance. However, if the theory was almost correct, there might be an integer-spin electron, but it’s just a bit too heavy for us to see. This ‘near-supersymmetry’ would be good enough to solve the mystery of the Higgs particle masses.

If we do live in a nearly supersymmetric world, the Higgs particles would be a bit different. First of all, there would be at least 5 kinds of them! This is required for the theory to be ‘well behaved’ so that calculated masses are finite. Theory also predicts that some of the Higgs particles might be made at the Tevatron in a very special way. Instead of being produced alone, they would often be accompanied by two bottom quarks Furthermore, Higgs particles themselves would also tend to decay into a pair of bottom quarks. The result would then be an excess, a signal, of events with many bottom quarks, where a pair of these bottom quarks would have energies that add up to the Higgs mass.

What’s the Point?

Well for one many of you have heard about string theory. One of the elements of strong theory involves the Higgs boson and so its detection would lend more support to this theory.  Also, string theory suggests that strings turn into particles only when quarks accompany them. Imagine a quark at each end of a string binging the string into a circle locked together by the quark. No quark, no particle, only an undetectable string. So string theorists have a lot riding on this accelerator.

Also, we have a real question/problem with our universe.  Shortly after Einstein’s discovery of general relativity, a physicists name Hermann Minkowski solved Einstein’s equations finding that our universe is in fact not necessarily stable (Einstein hated this concept but had to accept its possibility).  Minkowski realized that because every particle in the universe exerts a gravitations field, that by Einstein’s equations the universe could be expanding forever (which we today is the case temporality at about a rate of about 73.5 km/sec), it could be eventually contracting and will at some point collapse under the pressure of its own gravity, or be just balanced.  What makes the difference” Well, believe it or not, the matter we can identify only represents 5-10% of the total matter in the universe. 

So where’s’ the rest?  Well, enter those ghost particles we were speaking about before and something called vacuum energy – this is a tough one to grasp but quantum theory tells us that there is a probability that in a total vacuum (meaning there is nothing inside, no air, no nothing) particles will magically appear and disappear. While they have tiny mass and hence gravity, enough of them start to add up.  They add up so much that they in fact may represent most of the mass in the universe. 

So, if we detect Higgs Bosons we detect ghost particles, we can determine the mass in the universe and know whether we’ll be ripped apart to shreds, crushed to death or left to our vices in about 5-10 billion years.

Of course many other developments can come out of the collider. Nonetheless, welcome to modern physics!
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