Thank You Peter H

There are several reasons to be grateful to Peter Higgs. First, he wrote these very cool and extremely important papers in 1964. Second, he is a really nice and modest chap, and we could do with more of those in Physics. Now there is a third reason – he seems to have unlocked the University purse strings. The University of Edinbrr has announced that it will create the “Higgs Centre of Theoretical Physics”. There was a news conference today with Peter in Old College. There will be two academic positions in short order, eventually a Higgs Chair, and money for visiting scholars and so on. As I am not so much in the university committee loop these days, I am not sure how much is new money and how much is a re-labelling, but probably the real importance is that it gives a focus for fundraising. In fact you can donate a fiver now if you like. There is already 20 quid from random punters ! Marvelous.

The positive vibes from the whole Higgs Mania has been marvelous to watch. The media have by and large taken it very seriously – there has been very little of the “and now here’s a science story you won’t understand ! larf larf” kinda stuff. Basically the angle has been “history in the making”. Of course TV and papers are much happier with human angles. Its hard to form a narrative around symmetry breaking and so forth. So, even though it never suited Peter’s modesty, hanging the story around him made great sense. It wasn’t just a PR angle; clearly the whole particle physics community felt the historical resonance, and other breeds of physicist like myself found it cheering it watch.

Now it gets interesting because its so boring. Check out this interesting blog post by Stephen Wolfram. Finding the Higgs Boson is the crowning triumph of the Standard Model – but it highlights the fact that there have been no surprises for thirty five years. (Or rather, the surprises have all been in observational astrophysics…)  The theory doesn’t really explain stuff, just summarises it. And it has no idea what to do with gravity, the cosmological constant, or dark matter. We have the data. What we need is some serious THINKING here.

What a perfect time to set up a Centre for Theoretical Physics.

10 Responses to Thank You Peter H

  1. kagmi says:

    Mmm. So good to hear that science is getting a little more funding.

    I’m curious–is the graviton a problem? My understanding is that’s still a missing piece in the standard model. I know it’s sort of assumed to exist, but is its possible nonexistence a possible problem on the same scale as the missing Higgs?

    Either way, glad to see this exciting event in my lifetime. Can’t wait to see what this will do to the more speculative theoretical constructs like M-theory and quantum gravity…

  2. planetapi says:

    Great discovery. Higgs should have a Nobel. Anyone know which application might this have?

  3. Albert says:

    And high-quality thinkers are cheap, even in theoretical physics. It makes sense, after spending almost one JWST on measuring the Higgs, to spend a few quid on its interpretation. Good luck to Edinburgh and congratulations to Peter ‘Boson’ Higgs! I would recommend to check that it isn’t your money the University has re-labelled, though.

    Haven’t heard much about supersymmetry recently. As there are no observation constraints here (or testable predictions), won’t the thinkers quickly diverge into this terra incognito? Is that perhaps one reason why there has been so little progress in particle physics for 35 years?

  4. Will the occupant of the Higgs Chair be known as the “God Professor”?

  5. telescoper says:

    Great news…but can we be absolutely sure they have found the Higgs? I don’t think so…

    • Monica Grady says:

      They (particle physicists) will obviously need shed-loads more money to verify the result. Then even bigger shed-loads to look for the anti-Higgs, or the Higgs neutrino, or whatever comes next.

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  7. I rarely drop responses, however i did some searching and wound up here Thank You Peter H The e-Astronomer. And I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be just me or does it give the impression like a few of these comments look like left by brain dead folks? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you make a list of the complete urls of your community sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  8. […] sparring partner Martin Elvis has supplied me with a lovely guest post. It follows on from my previous post, and is a plea for asking answerable questions. I think its spot on – how about you […]

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