By Hector Trujillo
The first thing you will probably realize by the time you are done reading this is that I am no Carl Sagan. I am just an avid researcher on current scientific topics, with a particular interest in the research being conducted at the 16.5-mile long Large Hadron Collider or LHC tunnel outside Geneva, Switzerland.
So, after last week’s announcement that scientists there had discovered the elusive Higgs boson or “God Particle,” I put my geek hat on and jumped for joy.
Named after Peter Higgs, the theorist who envisioned the particle in 1964, the Higgs boson is what gives everything mass. Without it, the universe as we know it could not exist.
Once I took my hat off, two thoughts came to my mind. First, an atom came to mind. We all have a visual of what the atom looks like from our high school physics books.
The nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons while its electrons whiz around it. But, to the non-geeks reading this, did you know atoms are 99.9 percent empty space, which makes us 99.9 percent empty space. The void is made up by the electromagnetic field created by the electrons.
Therefore, if you take all the matter that makes up our bodies, the protons, neutrons and electrons, and press them together they would all fit in the tip of a needle. When I first realized that everything we consider solid is really empty space it was stunning. The second thought that came to mind was of my childhood and the conversations about science and religion I would have with my very Catholic grandmother.
She would tell me, in her soothing voice, “Mijo, there are some things we will just never know … just don’t lose your faith and know God works in mysterious ways.”
Well grandma, you may be right, but, as the LHC scientists showed us there is no harm in trying, is there? We may never know what happened before the Big Bang, we may never know if this is the only universe out there, we may never know if there is intelligent life on other planets or if we are the only game in town. There are still more questions than answers, but, as long as we never lose our scientific curiosity we sure will have fun trying to find out.
For those interested, this is the best article for the layman I have found on the Higgs boson. There is plenty of stuff on www.youtube.com as well: http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/07/04/how-the-higgs-gives-mass-to-the-universe/.