Program Notes (More Self-Aggrandizement)

For anyone interested in getting Higgsy with me, I’ll be talking with theoretical particle physicist Matt Strassler in just a couple of hours — at 5 p.m. EST.  As usual, it will be part of the Virtually Speaking Science strand of the Virtually Speaking empire — and you can listen live or as a podcast at Blog Talk Radio.*    For those of you whose virtual lives please you more than your real ones, you can take part in the fun as members of the live (ish) audience in Second Life.

Matt, as some of you may recall, is someone whose blog I’ve pointed to before; he’s only been operating Of Particular Significance for a few months, but it has rapidly become one of the handful of first places to go for really smart, high-level but intelligile news and explanation from the bleeding edge of particle physics.  Matt’s been working on the kinds of problems the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for many years now.  After a slightly rocky start, that accelerator has been performing brilliantly, with the result that we are in the midst of a very perplexing time.  We have tons of data, and tantalizing, elusive suggestions of results within that trove…

…among them, hints about what is called the Higgs particle, which is the name for the entitiy physicists believe that nature confers mass on much, though not all of what has mass in the universe.

Matt will tell you that the Higgs, often known by its wretched nickname, “the God particle,” is actually less important than something else, the Higgs field — which is a shorthand way of saying that what the elusive Higgs does is what counts — and we should not presume the search will take us to the point we think is most likely, until it does.

We’ll range over stuff like that, and some conversation about the role of instruments in driving what the instrument makers think, and even to some big questions about why people might care about such genuinely abstruse stuff — and how we might use that interest to do an end around of some more contentious debates in science as it enters the public sphere.

So come on down if you have a moment.  This should be one of those conversations that makes my head hurt, but in a good way.

*We will be getting our podcast going in iTunes shortly, BTW, and I’ll let y’all know as we do.

Image:  Vincent van Gogh, Wheat Field With Crows, 1890.


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