This morning I heard an expert in particle physics on the radio doing everything except denying that the theoretical Higgs boson had been empirically detected (not ‘discovered’ for heavens sake) with substantial certainty, before the official announcement this evening in Melbourne. There was talk that it is called the ‘God particle’ after a certain publication, which scientists hate for some odd reason, although I heard later that this is politely short for the ‘God-damn particle’ due to its elusiveness and the research cost of its detection.
What surprised me were the scientist’s final words, that the confirmation of the Higgs boson would help us know “why we are here.” To scientists, the word ‘why’ is about what reasonably causes what. Their ‘why’ is rather limited, and not too terribly exciting. As far as I am concerned, the scientist has only given an explanation of ‘how’ the model tells us that mass exists.
The big question is why this whole elaborate scheme of physical matter, whether according to the Standard Model or otherwise, exists at all—the really meaningful ‘why’ is in the overarching metaphysical question. I wonder if most listeners believed that was what he was talking about. I hope not.
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