The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

A “brave new world” revealed, not?!?

ImageOver two years ago I wrote a blog entry entitled “Brave New World.” In that entry I mused about the possibilities of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, about its search for the Higgs boson and the idea that everything we know about the world can change in the blink of an eye. When the LHC was started for the first time, there was a lot of excitement going around in the physics community. Particle physicists were waiting anxiously for results to surface. However, for over two years the LHC was riddled with problems. The magnets were broken, or too strong to hold the current and other such things that spelled a serious handicap for the LHC. The friendly competitors at Fermilab, near Chicago, now had the possibility to maybe beat the folks at CERN. The Tevatron at Fermi however was closed in 2011. Results of many of the experiments however were still being analyzed and showed a definite possibility of a Higgs boson. In early July of 2012 the elusive Higgs boson, or a particle that at least had the possibilities of the Higgs, was discovered at CERN. Peter Higgs himself was present and so were many physicists and observers of the wider particle physics community.  But did Miranda’s brave new world appear? In “The Tempest” Miranda talks about a “brave new world that has such people in it”. Yet the people that are so strange to her are more like her then she believes them to be. Their appearance only changed her perception of the world she inhabits. When the discovery of the new particle was announced there was for a brief second the possibility that now our entire perception of the world will change. That we will gain a much deeper understanding. But so far, at least to my knowledge, that does not seem to be the case. Our wide-eyed Mirandian curiosity was not satisfied. “CERN head Heuer called today’s announcement a “historic milestone” but cautioned that much work lies ahead as physicists attempt to confirm the new found particle’s identity and further probe its properties.” says a quote from a National Geographic article and such caution is definitely in order. But despite said caution and despite the fact that more research needs to be done, today’s discoveries just simply do not seem to be as earth shattering as predicted. Since the very many articles in early July, not much has been published about the new find. It is still not quite clear if it really is the missing particle, nor what all its properties are. And by now the story has vanished from the news. And if it is not in the news, if we are not aware of it, will it change how we see the world?

4 comments on “A “brave new world” revealed, not?!?

  1. camcintosh
    August 23, 2012

    It seems like nothing has changed because, well, nothing has changed. The existence of the Boson particle has always been assumed in standard particle physics. The only difference now is that this assumption has been empirically confirmed. I can’t help but speculate that the feeling of being underwhelmed by the discovery is due to how science news is covered in popular media (typically characterized by egregious sensationalism, inaccurate and misleading exaggeration, dramatic-sounding implications that are inherently implausible and far removed from the subject of report).

    • Marie-Caroline Schulte
      August 23, 2012

      I cannot help but disagree. Sure a lot has changed, since empirical confirmation (and by the way, it is not sure yet if it really is the Higgs boson) always changes the future research and approach to a given theory. But be that as it may, I did try to dig a bit deeper her, and I always try to make people think and be interested in scientific topics. I am well aware that the Higgs boson is an integral part of the standard model of particle physics. But think about String Theory. Strings are assumed as well, but what when and if they are really discovered? And underlying all this is as always the question: What exists?

      • camcintosh
        August 24, 2012

        Thanks for the reply, Marie-Caroline. I did not mean to suggest that I thought your post shared any unfortunate characteristics with poplar science news briefs. On the contrary, I enjoyed it very much.

        The comparison with String Theory isn’t quite accurate to the situation. You’re right: it would be incredible if strings were discovered. But strings hardly occupy as integral a part of standard physics as does the Boson (the place strings occupy is very small), principally because strings do not have impressive pre-theoretical reasons for postulating their existence. The situation is more like this, I think: suppose philosophers, with much funding and the combined effort of many, were finally able to come up with a decisive proof of the external world. It would be exciting, no doubt, but much would change! (just cut out the “with much funding” part if it’s too hard to conceive as is)

        You mentioned that there are doubts about whether the particle is really the Higgs boson. Sounds interesting! Can you point me in the right direction to read about that?

  2. camcintosh
    August 24, 2012

    Typo: “…but *not* much would change.”

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