I’m always interested in news from the world of physics for the same reason I read writers about Zen–it’s not that I get it–it’s that I almost, but don’t quite get it in so many different ways. I back up and take another run at understanding, fail, back up and try again. It’s great exercise. When physics get stale, I can always take a stab at the unity of the Trinity. It’s a bogglement. So when Mark Memmot, in The Two-Way blog today, posts that “Scientists Think They’ve Pinned Down The Higgs Boson,” he’s singing my song.
For your review, the Higgs boson is a subatomic particle long-predicted in the so-called Standard Model of particle physics, that would account for why things have mass. Experiments at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland provided sufficient evidence for the existence of the Higgs particle that the discovery could be announced back in July. Additional data accumulated since then only confirms that observations fit the theory. That makes this a great time to trot out one of the “Nine Types of Stories That Drive Engagement,” as our most recent webinar put it–a “News Explainer.”
Except that I can’t explain it. In the 13.7 blog last year, Adam Frank cited Fermilab’s Don Lincoln, who said the energy field made by the Higgs is like water:
“Depending on your mass you’ll move through the water with ease — like a barracuda — or slowly, like a big, fat man.”
His 13.7 colleague Eyder Peralta says,
“The real important thing for me is that fundamental particles are, as far as we can tell, zero-dimensional particles. They have no radius. You can’t think of fundamental particles as being glass marbles. They literally have no extension in space. They can never bump into anything else.”
Huh? If everything is made of these particles, and none of them have any extension in space, what the heck takes up all this space? And what collides in the collider? Is it like it says in the Heart Sutra?
“form is no other than emptiness; emptiness no other than form”
If so, Avalokiteshvara could have saved them a couple billion euros. Much more likely is that I just don’t get it at all. It’s an old familiar feeling.