Revisiting the Higgs Boson

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It’s hard to believe my report on the elusive Higgs particle is nearly a year old.

If you’re reading these blog posts by email, you may have missed it: My “Notes from Stonehaven” email newsletter was in recess last September. But the article is still evergreen.

Catch it here:

Higgs Boson Revisited

You’ve almost certainly heard of the Higgs “boson” (as the particle is called). Breathless news stories conveyed that its discovery was a Nobel-Prize-winning breakthrough. Almost none of those reports explained why.

That’s where my article comes in: It’s my shot at stripping away the glaze of journalistic gobbledygook. I explain:

✦ What the Higgs boson really is;
✦ Why a few physicists jokingly call it “the God particle”;
✦ Why nearly all other physicists object to that bit of whimsy;
✦ Why the Higgs ᴘᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ is important only as a clue to the underlying Higgs ғɪᴇʟᴅ;
✦ Why modern physicists think of a field as a vacuum that can vibrate;
✦ How this notion (crazy as it sounds) revives the supposedly discredited notion of aether.

And a lot, lot more!

The article elicited nearly 200 uniformly favorable comments, mostly from physicists, engineers, mathematicians, and other technical types. These comments sorted themselves into several spirited conversations, sometimes branching way out, but always coming back around.

The standout commenter was my physicist friend Jonah Miller. Jonah shares my passion for making science clear (and exciting). Where he differs from me is that Jonah is an actual research scientist with rigorous formal training. (Science geek that I am, I’m just an English-major type who reads and learns from folks like Jonah.)

By the way, the parts about aether are in the comments, not the article proper. That’s almost always the case with a well-commented blog post: Comments are where you’ll find all the best stuff.

Speaking of which: Comments are never closed! (Not on my blog, anyway.) After reading the original article, please share your own thoughts, insights, and questions. Could be this conversation is just getting started!

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