Friday, 16 December 2011

How does the quest for Higgs boson, the “God particle” affect us?

A few years back, there was much fanfare about the research going on at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. People voiced their apprehensions that smashing protons together would produce a black hole which would swallow the whole world.This didn’t happen! Now, there is much excitement in the scientific community about the possible discovery of Higgs boson, or the “God particle”! The on going research in quantum  Physics has started challenging the laws of physics as we know them.I wonder if this recent possible discovery wouldn’t perhaps challenge the principles of the physical universe as we know it?
The foundation of the physical universe rests on predictability. This predictability is being challenged by the principles of Quantum Physics. For example in our physical world, you aim a ball at a particular spot and if your aim is good, then you know that will hit the particular spot at a particular moment, and the sound of impact feels good! But, then what happens when you fire a proton? You don’t know where it will strike, because in the world of quantum Physics, it has a random movement which cannot be as accurately predicted as the physically lobbed ball! Our world is based on predictability and when predictions go wrong, chaos results! It is perhaps a human tendency to impose uniformity and order on everything that we observe! This is how the human brain works, is perceives the whole world in a rather ordered manner.
Quantum Physics deals with the study of matter at  the sub-atomic level. This study is increasingly exposing the existence of Randomness at the sub-atomic level! First we were told that the smallest indivisible form of matter was the atom. The ancient Greek Democritus termed the smallest indivisible particle of matter as the Atom. Research by scientists further discovered the electron, which was followed by the discovery of the proton, and then the neutron. Later experiments further discovered even more sub-atomic particles. Among these, two sub-atomic particles are massless, namely the photon of light and the gluon. Now, its seems as if scientists at CERN might have yet again discovered the Higgs boson, or the “God Particle!”
Such discoveries seem to open the doors to exciting possibilities of time travel, teleportation, and others such, “phantasies” dreamt by the science-fiction writers of the past! H.G.Wells wrote about time travel in his book, The Time Machine, he even wrote about space travel in his book, The War of the Worlds. Today, space travel is a reality! Then there was Jules Verne who wrote about underwater travel in his book, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. We all remember the Star Trek series that were telecast on T.V. Who knows, teleportation might become a reality one day! While no doubt most scientific discoveries have benefitted Mankind, a few however have also harmed Mankind, as for example, the dropping of the Atom bomb on Hiroshima! No doubt, we require immense maturity to be able to handle such discoveries as the Higgs boson!
How much does God want us to discover? I remember the story of the fisherman who fell in love with a mermaid and married her and went to live at the bottom of the sea. When he become home-sick and wanted to return top-side, the mermaid gave him a box, which she forbade him to open. On returning topside, he realised that time had not stood still, and that everyone he knew had died. Now he wanted to return to the world beneath the sea. There was no mermaid, so he against the mermaid’s instruction opened the box. We all know what happened after he opened the box! One often wonders if through our excess inquisitiveness, we might not be opening a Pandora’s Box! Man is an ever inquisitive child trying to open locked doors, and sealed boxes which might hide monsters that he might not be able to restrain. Perhaps it is better to let some doors be locked and some boxes remain sealed! There is a never ending quest for  a Holy Grail that might help us to one day overcome the limitations of the physical world, there is a quest to achieve immortality, and perhaps a desire to perhaps extend our stay in this world as we know it.
We all know that this Universe will not last forever. The big bang theory suggests that the Universe is expanding until one day it will implode! Is there a way of reversing it? The Sun will one day expand and consume the Solar system, it will become a white dwarf star, and further collapse into a dark hole. Can we and should we think of a possibility of evading such a fate? Presumption and conceit in excess can be harmful. Can we therefore, play at being God and get away from it? Nature has set a fine balance or equilibrium, can be challenge this equilibrium and still get away from it?

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