Did scientists running the massive Large Hadron Collider finally discover what Einstein eloquently hypothesized was the "mind of God" for the last 30 years of his life? Possibly, yes, if a memo leaked this week turns out to be legitimate.
The memo, which it should definitely be noted has not been properly vetted or undergone peer review, details the discovery of the Higgs Boson, aka "God Particle," which could theoretically be the lynchpin in an equally grandiose-sounding "Theory of Everything." In the most basic of layman's terms, the Higgs is theoretically responsible for giving all particles in the Universe mass.
But—and this is the really important part—did they really find it this time?
Unclear. Please shake and consult again at a later date. Basically, this was a leaked memo, not a peer reviewed scientific paper, and there are any number of reasons a document of this magnitude would be disseminated in such a fashion. Not all of them are good.
Hans Georg Ritter, a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, noted that there might be strategic reasons to leak unvetted results of the sort contained in the memo. "If the stakes are high and if there is competition, the collaborations tend to try to publish earlier than under normal conditions," Ritter wrote in an email. "But those publications have still to follow the scientific process. I think [leaks] are generated as a means of internal positioning for credit." One commenter on Woit's blog had a less skeptical perspective: "Keeping secret the work of 2,000 persons in the age of Internet is just impossible."
Internal positioning for credit! Sometimes I forget that I share so much DNA and evolutionary heritage with scientists. If we don't consider their big, powerful brains, they're all talking crap behind their friends' backs in the office break room just like me!
But! If—and this is a big if—the Higgs has been discovered, the world of physics and humanity could be on the brink of unlocking (or at the very least understanding) some truly fantastical things.
"It's going to open the floodgates for a whole new branch of theoretical physics," [theoretical physicist] Michio Kaku told The Daily. "There are some eternal questions that cannot be answered in the framework of conventional physics. Is time travel possible? Are there gateways to other universes? Are there parallel dimensions?"
Again, all big if's, and if this un-vetted paper is anything like the "We totally found methane alien life in California" debacle form a few months back, it could really be nothing at all. Just an accidentally forwarded email from a scientist at one of the most important particle accelerators in the world regarding literally the biggest physics finding in the history of mankind. No big deal.
In related news, April has been an incredibly hot month for new particles and physics in general. As for the Higgs, the debunking has already begun with physicists like Tommaso Dorigo, a particle physicist at Fermilab and CERN, who has "bet" $1,000 the memo is bogus and the anomaly will be explained away as nothing. But that's science for you. [The Daily]