The Quest For The God Particle

The Higgs boson particle is sometimes referred to as “the God particle.”  That comes from Leon Lederman’s book, The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? (Though other books that have picked up on the idea – both in non-fiction and fiction)

The term gets people’s attention (you did read this post, after all) and has generated some media attention to physics and the Large Hadron Collider, but most scientists would not use the term because they feel it is an exaggeration of the particle’s importance.

The Higgs boson is the one and only scalar elementary particle predicted to exist in nature by the Standard Model in particle physics. At present there are no other known fundamental scalar particles in nature.

It is also the only Standard Model particle that has not been observed.

If one was detected through experimentation, it would help explain the origin of mass in the universe. (It would explain the difference between the massless photon, which mediates electromagnetism, and the massive W and Z bosons, which mediate the weak force.)

If the Higgs boson exists, it is an integral and pervasive component of the material world.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, which became operational on November 20, 2009, is expected to provide experimental evidence of the existence or non-existence of the Higgs boson

The most interesting thing I have read recently about this says that “…one could even almost say that we have a model for God […] that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

So says physicist Dr Holger Bech Nielsen (Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen) who “blames” God for the problems finding the Higgs boson. It is a jinxed quest.

Why? Because this particle has the ability to travel back in time.

Nielsen and some others conjecture that the creation of a Higgs particle (at the Large Hadron Collider) will cause a chain of events that will ripple back in time, stopping its creation in the future.

This idea does make real physicists sound like Doc Brown in Back to the Future

“…the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one.”  (NY Times)

It’s the good ol’  “Grandfather Paradox” which has fascinated me since I was a kid reading time-travel stories.  If you could travel back in time and kill his grandfather, would you cease to exist?

Published by


A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

Add to the conversation about this article

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.