Higgs Particle and Gravity
If the Higgs particle is discovered at CERN in a few years,
what will it mean? Will we be able to control gravity like
we can control electricity now?
The discovery of the Higgs particle, in any form, will be a huge step in
experimental particle physics. The Higgs will be (I am assuming they
find it!) the crowning achievement of the Standard Model of particle
physics. Its discovery has been long over due (I do not think many
would have guessed that some 30 years later it would still be
undiscovered) and its absence has given particle physicists some cause
to modify the Standard Model in different ways to account for this
absence. Essentially, scientists have looked at higher and higher
energies without finding it. Since we do not see it, but are fairly
confident, we push to higher energies in our search. Each time we
search higher without finding it, we have to push back the lower limit
on its mass to higher and higher values. I should point out that going
to higher energies is not merely to search for the Higgs, but for many
other predicted particles as well.
However, its absence thus far has given rise to many different theories
to account for it. Some of these theories predict not just one kind of
Higgs, but many. They often bring in various interesting models such as
super-symmetry. In general, the Higgs needs to not be quite so massive
for the Standard Model to function. Therefore, in order to explain such
a heavy Higgs we have to modify the model in some way to account for this.
Anyhow, none of this will lead directly to use having any greater
control over gravity than we already do today. The energies are so
extreme, and the conditions so difficult to achieve, that any
straight-forward application is not directly foreseeable. That is not to
say that scientists will not eventually figure out something grand in the
future. Just that with our current understand, it is difficult to see
how it would be useful. That is also not to say that other useful things
will not come from the work. For instance, the WWW you are using to ask
this question was largely developed by scientists and engineers at CERN!
Lastly, take my words with a grain of salt. My area of physics is quite
removed from high energy particles.
Michael S. Pierce
Materials Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory
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Update: June 2012