Banner
    Why The Higgs Is A Bad Ballerina
    By Amir D. Aczel | August 12th 2012 04:59 PM | 30 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Amir D.

    Amir D. Aczel, Ph.D., studied mathematics and physics at the University of California at Berkeley and also holds a doctorate in statistics. He is...

    View Amir D.'s Profile

    The Higgs boson, whose discovery was confirmed by CERN on July 4th to the exacting 5-sigma level required in particle physics (meaning that the probability that the bulge in the data indicating a particle with mass-energy in the range of ~125 GeV is a random fluke is less than 1 in 3.5 million), is the first and only boson to be predicted to be a very bad ballerina--it can't twirl around! 

    This part of the story is yet to be confirmed experimentally, and CERN scientists are now working on using their data to confirm this highly peculiar theoretical property of this mysterious particle. To understand what this means, we need to go back to the 1920s. 

    From a high school chemistry course you may remember that two electrons in the same orbital in an atom must differ from one another--their difference is in something called "spin": if one has spin "up" (along a given axis defined in space), the other must have spin "down." The property is due to Wolfgang Pauli and the principle he established in 1925, called the Pauli Exclusion Principle.

    Experiments showed that indeed electrons do possess something like a physical spin since they exhibit magnetic properties that resemble those of a spinning electrically-charged object. But at that time, there was no theoretical explanation for something like a spin.


    Then one cold night in 1928, Paul Dirac was sitting in front of the fireplace at St. John's College, Cambridge, staring into the fire. Suddenly, he found the answer to a problem that had been occupying his every waking moment for months: how to combine the requirements of quantum mechanics with those of special relativity. The result was the Dirac equation, which as one added bonus resulted in the prediction that the electron must have a spin; and another, more famous outcome, was the prediction of the existence of antimatter. (More on this story can be found in Steven Weinberg, The Quantum Theory of Fields, vol. 1, p. 7.)

    So the peculiar property of "spin" now had a theoretical justification. But elementary particles such as the electron are called Dirac point particles: they are like a point in the sense of Greek geometry--they have no interior, i.e., no width, no breadth, no length, no insides. So what does it mean for such a particle to "spin"? How do we visualize an extent-less particle spinning? The answer is that we simply can't. This is one of the many aspects of quantum mechanics that evades all our attempts at a macro-world explanation or visualization. And the story gets much weirder than that.



    First of all, the rate of this un-visualizable "rotation" is fixed and quantized. And--worst of all--the electron, and all other particles like it (called fermions, after the physicist Enrico Fermi) are defined to have spin 1/2 (in quantized, Planck units), which means something really strange: When such a particle spins around 360 degrees, it does not return to where it started from! Instead, its sign reverses.

    It is like a ballerina who twirled around full circle and now finds herself dancing on her hands, with her feet straight up in the air! The electron, or any other fermion, only comes back to "normal" after completing another full-circle "rotation," to a total of 720 degrees. 




    It's hard to find everyday-life examples of such weird behavior. But people have tried. The Stanford physicist Leonard Susskind recently showed me a cool example of this phenomenon in our large-scale world. Stand up and hold your hand in front of you, palm up. Put a can of beer (don't open it--or it will spill! but it may help to drink a couple of them before you try this exercise...) on your open palm. Now, rotate your hand, keeping the palm up, counterclockwise (clockwise if you're left handed), meaning inwards, until--this is hard--you've completed a full circle.

    Note that you are not back to where you started, after 360 degrees, because your arm is twisted now. So continue the rotation--very carefully--to complete a second full-circle. If you did this right, you will be exactly where you started. Someone ought to do a video of this--it would be much clearer.


    So the fermions--electrons and quarks and other "matter" elementary particles--are all like that. They obey what are called Fermi-Dirac statistics: they can't occupy all the same quantum states--they have to differ from one another on at least something, often the spin; they are governed by Pauli's exclusion principle. The bosons (force carriers, when elementary particles), on the other hand, which are particles with integer spins, follow Bose-Eintstein statistics: they like to "get together" and share the same quantum properties.

    This is how we get laser light--light in which the photons are all coherent, sharing their quantum properties. And this is also how we get something called a Bose-Einstein condensate, in extremely low, close-to-absolute-zero, temperatures: the particles (these are now atoms that have integer spins) come together in such a way that their individual quantum-mechanical wave functions actually merge into one large wave; essentially, they become a single quantum object (whose size actually brings them to our macro-world scale!).

    So what about the Higgs? Well, for theoretical reasons that have to do with how its field interacts with other fields, the Higgs must have zero spin. Since zero is still an integer, the Higgs is a boson. But it is a scalar boson. In fact, Peter Higgs, a modest individual by all accounts, still calls "his" boson the "scaler boson" (of course he does this in recognition of the fact that five other physicists had the same idea that led to the particle's prediction in the same year, 1964). The photon, gluon, W+, W-, and Z bosons all have spin 1 and are defined as vector bosons (you can think of it this way: if you spin, you have a direction, defined by the right-hand rule; even though in quantum mechanics everything is a mixture, including the "directions").

    A particle that doesn't spin is considered a scalar, and not a vector (it has no defined direction). As such, the Higgs would make a very bad ballerina--one who can't twirl around. Does it, in reality?--CERN promises to let us soon know the answer.

    P.S. Are there any other kinds of bosons? The answer is: Maybe. If gravity can be made into a quantum field theory, then the boson carrying out the action of the force of gravity would be the graviton. This hypothetical particle has never been discovered, but for theoretical reasons that have to do with the fact that mass curves space--as Einstein's general theory of relativity has taught us--the graviton, if it exists, must have a spin of 2. I will leave you to conjecture about just what this may mean! 

    Comments

    Thank you for passing on this 'beer can' exercise. I found it easier to do than the old 'spinor spanner'. It shows a property of a system (more complex than a particle) to only return to the way it was after 720 degrees. These examples generally work by having an arm (or strings) attached to your shoulder or something else.

    Point particles, viewed as irreducible representations of a double cover of rotations, manage to exhibit this behaviour without strings attached, so maybe a caution should be included not to take the analogy too far?

    2.1, meaning our new partical is zero, were does this leave our theory of ?...

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    P.S. Are there any other kinds of bosons? The answer is: Maybe. 
    How do we know that the scalar boson that has now been proved with 5 sigma confidence about its likelihood to exist, is in fact the Higg's boson and not just some other scalar boson with similar properties? What evidence do we really have that this scalar boson gives all particles their mass? Could there be other kinds of bosons that give spacetime for example, its space and time? 
    If gravity can be made into a quantum field theory, then the boson carrying out the action of the force of gravity would be the graviton. This hypothetical particle has never been discovered, but for theoretical reasons that have to do with the fact that mass curves space--as Einstein's general theory of relativity has taught us--the graviton, if it exists, must have a spin of 2. I will leave you to conjecture about just what this may mean!  
    According to the Wikipedia article about the graviton and its comparison with other forces :- 
    Unlike the force carriers of the other forces, gravitation plays a special role in general relativity in defining the spacetime in which events take place. Because the diffeomorphism invariance of the theory does not allow any particular space-time background to be singled out as the "true" space-time background, general relativity is said to be background independent. In contrast, the Standard Model is not background independent, with Minkowski space enjoying a special status as the fixed background space-time. A theory of quantum gravity is needed in order to reconcile these differences. Whether this theory should be background independent is an open question. The answer to this question will determine if gravitation plays a special role in the universe 
    Wiki also points out that an interesting feature of gravitons in string theory is that :-
    as closed strings without endpoints, they would not be bound to branes and could move freely between them. If we live on a brane (as hypothesized by some theorists[who?]) this "leakage" of gravitons from the brane into higher-dimensional space could explain why gravitation is such a weak force, and gravitons from other branes adjacent to our own could provide a potential explanation for dark matter. 
    Wiki then describes the difficulties of making experimental observations of these gravitons, both natural and unnaturally generated :-
     Unambiguous detection of individual gravitons, though not prohibited by any fundamental law, is impossible with any physically reasonable detector.The reason is the extremely low cross section for the interaction of gravitons with matter. For example, a detector with the mass of Jupiter and 100% efficiency, placed in close orbit around a neutron star, would only be expected to observe one graviton every 10 years, even under the most favorable conditions. 
    However, experiments to detect gravitational waves, which may be viewed as coherent states of many gravitons, are underway (e.g., LIGO and VIRGO). Although these experiments cannot detect individual gravitons, they might provide information about certain properties of the graviton. For example, if gravitational waves were observed to propagate slower than c (the speed of light in a vacuum), that would imply that the graviton has mass.
    So how do we know that these LHC, LIGO and VIRGO experiments and others like them, that might well be generating unknown quantities of undetectable and therefore undetected gravitons on this planet, for the first time below the Earth's protective magnetosphere, are not significantly affecting the Earth's geomagnetic force for example or even collecting in the Earth's magnetic core and what do you mean when you say that 'It would be impossible to discriminate these events from the background of neutrinos, since the dimensions of the required neutrino shield would ensure collapse into a black hole'?

    Could the Earth's currently weakening geomagnetic force and increasingly rapidly moving north and south poles be an indicator of some or all of this already happening?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Halliday
    Helen:

    Before I got down to the last couple of paragraphs of your message I was preparing to answer your questions concerning gravity, General Relativity, and "gravitons".

    Then, unfortunately, you "spoiled" everything with those last two paragraphs.

    Do you not recall what you wrote on your Corkboard?  To whit:  "I am hoping to improve my attitude and skills".

    So, please, try to steer clear of such "cliffs".

    David

    P.S.  Who are you talking to when you ask "what do you mean when you say that 'It would be impossible to discriminate these events from the background of neutrinos, since the dimensions of the required neutrino shield would ensure collapse into a black hole'?"

    It would appear that you are referring to a statement made in the graviton Wikipedia article.  That statement references the following article:

    Rothman, T.; Boughn, S. (2006).  "Can Gravitons be Detected?".  Foundations of Physics 36 (12):  1801–1825.  arXiv:gr-qc/0601043Bibcode 2006FoPh...36.1801Rdoi:10.1007/s10701-006-9081-9.

    Within that article, I find the following (easily found by searching for "shield"):

    This result, however, does not absolutely exclude detection of gravitons; one can imagine filling the solar system and beyond with tiny detectors.  At this point, though, the possibilities go out of sight.

    Before that point, we must address two other issues.  The first is noise.  Any detector needs to be shielded against background noise.  Two serious noise sources are neutrinos and cosmic rays.  The cross section for the interaction of neutrinos with matter is about 10−45cm2, or at least twenty orders of magnitude greater than the gravito-electric cross section.  In a typical white dwarf, neutrino emission exceeds photon emission[23], meaning that 1013−14 neutrinos are emitted for every graviton.  Therefore, without shielding, one would expect 1033−34 neutrino events for every graviton event.  A shield should be thicker than the mean-free-path for neutrinos, which for materials of ordinary density amounts to light years.  Such a shield would collapse into a black hole.  Unless one can find another way to discriminate against neutrinos, this appears to make detection of thermal gravitons impossible.  In light of this result, we do not pursue shielding against cosmic rays, which would activate the detector material, inundating it with secondary particles.

    So, does that answer your question?

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Then, unfortunately, you "spoiled" everything with those last two paragraphs. Do you not recall what you wrote on your Corkboard?  To whit:  "I am hoping to improve my attitude and skills". So, please, try to steer clear of such "cliffs". David.
    P.S.  Who are you talking to when you ask "what do you mean when you say that 'It would be impossible to discriminate these events from the background of neutrinos, since the dimensions of the required neutrino shield would ensure collapse into a black hole'?"

    Thanks for explaining things David. Yes, I was having a bad hair day and I ended up paying a big price for those questions. I also got confused and thought that it was Amir not Wiki who had said 'It would be impossible to discriminate these events from the background of neutrinos, since the dimensions of the required neutrino shield would ensure collapse into a black hole'? I have some more questions about gravitons but maybe I should ask them on my cork board, otherwise I might be jumping off another cliff here! 

    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Halliday
    Helen:

    As I tried to express, the questions were just fine, up to the last two paragraphs, where you went "off the edge" into the same sorts of paranoid-like speculations that have lead to the deletion or un-publishing of your old " 'The Earth's Weakening Geomagnetic Force' blog" entry.

    So, in short, the questions are just fine, and even good.  The problem is in conflating vague "understandings" or associations in paranoid-like ways.

    David

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    David, in case you do not understand the Minowski spacetime, chronological order of events :) it was my question above which contained a link to my blog  'The Earth's Weakening Geoimagnetic Force and Possible Polar Reversal', which had over 100,000 reads and 464 comments until Hank closed the comments section last year, that has now caused Hank to unpublish that same blog. 

    I will try not to make any more 'paranoid speculation' questions here, because it seems that any area of science that is not well understood, is not allowed to be speculated about by a Science20 blogger in what could be interpreted as a paranoid or negative way. It seems that this is only allowed in the social sciences, because that area is not really considered a science at Science20 by the people that matter.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Speculation is fine as long as it isn't formed in questions like the "when did you stop beating your wife" format.  Queries don't begin with "So how do we know?" 

    Similarly ... "might well"?  You've not only assigned a quality but you've all but in your question you simply treat gravitons as given with some undisclosed assumed properties.
    ...that might well be generating unknown quantities of undetectable and therefore undetected gravitons on this planet...
    The following statement was issued as if this is a fully accepted conclusion and is a complete mystery to everyone.
    Could the Earth's currently weakening geomagnetic force and increasingly rapidly moving north and south poles be an indicator of some or all of this already happening?


    If you want to speculate, then you should at least have a scientific, or quasi-scientific reason for asking a particular question as well as being capable of presenting your reasoning for why it should be a legitimate question.  Instead you simply jump full bore into whatever speculative nonsense is out there, without asking the obvious questions to confirm whether the topic is a legitimate query.

    Science is not here to provide reassurance simply because you might have some strange concern about events.  Just like the Nibiru post, it doesn't particularly matter if people don't understand April 1st, or if they believe that nonsense.  It is NOT a legitimate question to ask whether Nibiru is real, since even the most cursory exploration would indicate that it is the domain of crack-pots and conspiracy theorists.  While a poster might be that naive, it isn't going to result in serious answers being provided. 

    So, while I recognize that you've followed some guy's book about this, it would be better if you pursued several sources to examine the contrary views.  More importantly you need to evaluate why everyone has been telling you that this isn't true, and your persistence in pursuing it. 

    Bear in mind, that there are obviously large areas of science for which there may not be good or complete answers, but that doesn't open the flood gates to all manner of speculation.  Before you worry about the Earth's magnetic field weakening or suddenly flipping, you would do well to do more serious research into fields such as magnetohydrodynamics or even just more research into general physics.

    Just as when someone asks how we could be descended from monkeys in evolution, it simply isn't worth the bother to answer because anyone that could even ask such a question obviously can't be bothered with an explanation, since they haven't even done the easy research yet.  Such a question has been answered a million times, so if they're still asking, they either aren't paying attention, or simply looking for someone to confirm a pre-existing belief.

    Even when various people have told you that your concerns are unwarranted, or that your belief is wrong, you insist on arguing with them.  In fact, you specifically complained, at one point, that "no one" had the expertise to tie all these loose ends together and consequently there was really no likelihood of getting an answer.  This suggests that you want some "argument from authority" from someone coming along proclaiming that they are "The Authority" simply to provide some reassurance.  That isn't how it works, so you need to explore for yourself, why your speculations aren't true.  Then if you finally figure out your arguments, you're in a better position to argue as to why your questions are legitimate.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Even when various people have told you that your concerns are unwarranted, or that your belief is wrong, you insist on arguing with them.  In fact, you specifically complained, at one point, that "no one" had the expertise to tie all these loose ends together and consequently there was really no likelihood of getting an answer.  This suggests that you want some "argument from authority" from someone coming along proclaiming that they are "The Authority" simply to provide some reassurance.  That isn't how it works, so you need to explore for yourself, why your speculations aren't true.  Then if you finally figure out your arguments, you're in a better position to argue as to why your questions are legitimate. 
    Gerhard, I had already said 'I will try not to make any more 'paranoid speculation' questions here, because it seems that any area of science that is not well understood, is not allowed to be speculated about by a Science20 blogger in what could be interpreted as a paranoid or negative way.' So why this big beat up and character assassination? 

    I've also repeatedly said in the past that I made mistakes in my 'The Earth's Weakening Geomagnetic Force' blog by asking some questions that could easily be interpreted as a bit paranoid or negative, which I  then tried to rectify but it was too late as it caused confusion in the comments section when I took them out. 

    I'm even now quite glad that the blog and all its comments have been unpublished, though I noticed that another blogger has republished it on another blog site, word for word, without mentioning my name. However, I think that this comment above is overly harsh and unnecessary, as I clearly said that I had already decided not to ask these kind of speculative, negative questions any more as I do accept that they can cause some people unnecessary concern, as does the April 1st Nibiru blog. 

    The reality does still remain though that the Earth's geomagnetic force is weakening and the poles are moving and that no one really knows why and that was really what my original blog was meant to be about. Surely researching and writing about that subject would be OK or is even a blog discussing this scientific information or the lack of available scientific information also not allowed to be written about in a blog or mentioned in a comments section here?
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    ...as does the April 1st Nibiru blog.
    You always have to argue, as if you can't tell the difference between a post from April 1st versus something that is purely speculative.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    You always have to argue, as if you can't tell the difference between a post from April 1st versus something that is purely speculative. 
    Well, as we both know, the post date was March 31st for many months until someone finally changed it to say April 1st, just to give those poor gullible people a chance! BTW, you haven't answered my question.
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Halliday
    Helen:

    When I first started reading the article in question I immediately suspected a joke.  So I checked on the date:  Yes, it was March 31st, but the proximity to midnight (and knowing that the author is not in my time zone) made it sufficiently clear.

    I think the article in question was one of the best April Fool's Day jokes I have seen in a very long time!  I even had to check out the link to the Titius-Bode law!  (I think he was especially clever in recasting that "law" using the fact that skipping Neptune actually does make for a better fit!)

    By the way, I had never heard of a "noon" time limit to April Fool's Day jokes until you started chiding people for not adhering to such.  It must be a British/Australian tradition.  (Are such just too gullible?  And thus in need of a more limited time frame?)

    Anyway, can we give this argument over this April Fool's Day joke a rest?

    David

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Anyway, can we give this argument over this April Fool's Day joke a rest? 
    I'm a social scientist and also a counsellor on a crisis phone line, who regularly listens to suicidal, depressed and disillusioned people's hopes and fears. The average IQ in the world is 100, that means that 50% of people have IQs of less than 100, which means that they are possibly more vulnerable to misinformation like this, than the other 50%. 

    You would probably be amazed at how concerned many people are about the future impacts of climate change, polar shifts and many other less authentic but well publicised threats of impending doom directly upon themselves and their children and the many forms that their psychological responses to these threats, both real and unreal, can take, including even suicide. Over 20 million people attempt suicide in the world each year for many reasons that only they really know and over a million succeed. 

    Science20 is a science website which is still carrying an April Fool's day article called 'Right Under Our Eyes: Nibiru On Its Way?' that attracts hundreds of hits and the corresponding revenue from Science20 advertisers every day and as you pointed out :-
    I think the article in question was one of the best April Fool's Day jokes I have seen in a very long time!  I even had to check out the link to the Titius-Bode law!  (I think he was especially clever in recasting that "law" using the fact that skipping Neptune actually does make for a better fit!)
    Every day people make comments on that article showing that they have skim read the article and its many comments and that they have missed noticing that the article is an April Fool's day joke. Daily, Gerhard exclaims in disbelief that people are soooo stupid to not notice that the article is an April Fool's day joke! Yet still the article remains.

    Also, maybe it isn't such a great April Fool's day hoax....


     Especially if you read this article by Ian O'Neill in Discovery News called 'IS 'PLANET X 2.0' LURKING BEYOND PLUTO'S ORBIT?' that says :-
    Before the doomsayers hijacked "Planet X" and used it as a phantom (a.k.a. "Nibiru") to scare people into believing the 2012 doomsday hype, the hunt for Planet X was an exciting astronomical quest to find a hypothetical world in the outermost reaches of the solar system in the early 20th century.
    Although dwarf planet Pluto was discovered during the search for Planet X in 1930, apparently ending the quest, there is enduring evidence for the existence of a substantial planet gravitationally shaping the population of minor bodies in the Kuiper belt and beyond. The only problem is, we can't see it.
    Earlier this month, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Timberline Lodge, Ore., Rodney Gomes, an astronomer from the National Observatory of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, announced the results of his simulation of a region beyond Pluto known as the "scattered disk," suggesting the presence of an as yet to be discovered massive world. 
    Yes, this is an authentic article by an authentic scientist suggesting the presence of an as yet undiscovered massive world in the Kuiper Belt of our solar system, so that means that this Science20 article is not even a very good April Fool's day hoax! As April Fool's day jokes only really work when they get people to believe in some concept that is completely and utterly ridiculous, like the Hiccup boson :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Halliday
    Helen:

    Right here, you provide a good example of what has been wrong about your approach.  You say:

    The reality does still remain though that the Earth's geomagnetic force is weakening and the poles are moving and that no one really knows why and that was really what my original blog was meant to be about.  ...

    You are correct that "the Earth's geomagnetic force is weakening and the poles are moving".  However, you are absolutely "off base" with your assertion "that no one really knows why".

    As I recall your "original blog" you did include at least some of the explanation, and some of the geological history of this (totally expected) phenomenon.  So, why you then went "off the deep end" and started to assert "that no one really knows why" was, and still is, a mystery to me.

    I knew that this was a completely expected phenomenon way back in sixth grade (or was it fifth grade?), back around 1970.  The geologic history is clear:  The Earth has gone through these shifts many many many times in its past.  In fact, the present era since the last such shift has been one of the longest such periods without a shift in the "recent" history of this planet.

    It was bound to happen, we knew it would.  The only questions were when would it happen, how long would it take to make the shift (we know it is "short" on geologic time scales, but we don't know how long on human time scales), and what the effects would be on human kind (especially if the shift is "slow" on human time scales).  (We knew it couldn't lead to massive extinctions, based upon the geologic history, but it could, possibly, still be disruptive, especially to an electronics technology based society.)

    So, like I said, why you then went off into "paranoid speculation", especially about how humanity (or, more specifically "science") was "causing" this "calamity", was and is a complete mystery to me.

    That was and is the "problem".

    David

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The only questions were when would it happen, how long would it take to make the shift (we know it is "short" on geologic time scales, but we don't know how long on human time scales), and what the effects would be on human kind (especially if the shift is "slow" on human time scales).  (We knew it couldn't lead to massive extinctions, based upon the geologic history, but it could, possibly, still be disruptive, especially to an electronics technology based society.) So, like I said, why you then went off into "paranoid speculation", especially about how humanity (or, more specifically "science") was "causing" this "calamity", was and is a complete mystery to me. That was and is the "problem".
    How many times do I have to say that I made a mistake speculating about other possible man made causes of the Earth's Weakening Geomagnetic Force and Possible Polar Reversal in that blog, which I wrote a long time ago? Even though I personally can't help wondering about these things, I realise that I mustn't and shouldn't speculate publicly and I won't in future. 
    You are correct that "the Earth's geomagnetic force is weakening and the poles are moving".  However, you are absolutely "off base" with your assertion "that no one really knows why". 
    When I said no one really knows why, what I meant was there are lots of different hypotheses and there is not one agreed consensus of scientific opinion. BTW another blogger has now posted my blog word for word here and you can see that what I actually wrote was :-
    Causes of Geomagnetic Pole Reversal
    Scientific opinion is divided on what hypothetically causes geomagnetic pole reversals and flips. Some theories hypothesize that they are due to events internal to the system, that generate the Earth's magnetic field, others propose that they are due to external events. 
    Internal Events
    According to Wikipedia ‘Many scientists believe that reversals are an inherent aspect of the dynamo theory of how the geomagnetic field is generated. In simulations, it is observed that magnetic field lines can sometimes become tangled and disorganized through the chaotic motions of liquid metal in the Earth's core. During these periods, the direction and magnitude of the magnetic field observed at any point on the surface fluctuate, and net field strength is reduced by dipole-dipole interactions’.‘In some simulations, this leads to an instability in which the magnetic field spontaneously flips over into the opposite orientation. This scenario is supported by observations of the solar magnetic field, which undergoes spontaneous reversals every 9–12 years. However, with the sun it is observed that the solar magnetic intensity greatly increases during a reversal, whereas all reversals on Earth seem to occur during periods of low field strength’.
    External Events
    Wikipedia also claims that ‘Some scientists, such as Richard A. Muller, believe that geomagnetic reversals are not spontaneous processes but rather are triggered by external events which directly disrupt the flow in the Earth's core. Such processes may include the arrival of continental slabs carried down into the mantle by the action of plate tectonics at subduction zones, the initiation of new mantle plumes from the core-mantle boundary, and possibly mantle-core shear forces resulting from very large impact events. Supporters of this theory hold that any of these events could lead to a large scale disruption of the dynamo, effectively turning off the geomagnetic field. Because the magnetic field is stable in either the present North-South orientation or a reversed orientation, they propose that when the field recovers from such a disruption it spontaneously chooses one state or the other, such that a recovery is seen as a reversal in about half of all cases’.
    I also pointed out that the evidence for the Earth's pole reversal that is taking place is not really following anyone's hypothesis when I said :-
    NASA has verified that there is evidence of a positive magnetism energy at the south pole, which is normally supposed to exist in the north pole only. The South pole is supposed to only have a negative magnetic charge. In the past 150 years, it has also been claimed that there has been a migration between the north and south poles and their respective magnetic charges of positive and negative magnetic reversal.  
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Halliday
    Helen:

    Now that you have been chided for the last two paragraphs of your message, lets get to some of your legitimate questions.

    You started with:

    How do we know that the scalar boson that has now been proved with 5 sigma confidence about its likelihood to exist, is in fact the Higg's boson and not just some other scalar boson with similar properties?

    Actually, as Amir pointed out in the first sentence of the second paragraph of his article:

    This part of the story [it can't twirl around!] is yet to be confirmed experimentally, and CERN scientists are now working on using their data to confirm this highly peculiar theoretical property of this mysterious particle.

    So, we actually don't even know if this particle is a scalar boson.  We don't even know if it is a fundamental particle, or a composite particle.  (We already know of a great many "scalar" bosons that are composite particles, made of a quark/anti-quark pair, called mesons.  [All mesons are bosons, having integer spin, but not all have zero spin, so not all are "scalar".])

    So, there's interesting things yet to be determined about this particle.

    David

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    In a different thread, someone commented that the detected particle could be either spin 0 or spin 2, but not spin 1.  A spin 1 particle cannot decay into two photons.  I thought in the future I would just read Tommaso's blogs for a few years until they could settle the 0 versus 2 issue based on data.  A spin 2 ruling would be easy to hear about, no doubt it would be front page news ("God Particle DEAD").

    Now I am imagining a different future nightmare.  The data comes in, and the data mongers rule the particle is in fact spin 0 as everyone expected.  Great, it remains more than reasonable to say this signal is an excitation of the Higgs field, a small signal to us of the fields ubiquitous presence.  There will remain a pea under my pile of blankets now, because there could be some n quark zero spin composite particle no one has ever thought to model (n being greater that say 3 were we know all that is happening).  It is beyond my ability to understand the difference between the Higgs field and some super rare 6 quark salad.

    Lots of hard work ahead for the LHC.
    Halliday
    Doug:

    You begin with:

    In a different thread, someone commented that the detected particle could be either spin 0 or spin 2, but not spin 1.  A spin 1 particle cannot decay into two photons.  ...

    Yes, indeed, the only (massive) particles that could decay into two and only two photons, and nothing else in addition to the two photons, must be either spin 0 or spin 2.

    Of course, we would have to rule out any additional decay products, to a sufficiently high degree, whether an additional photon or something else that was simply not detected (too low energy, or something).  Of course, having large data samples helps here, unless there are systematics that make such a scenario extra likely.

    You go on with:

    ...  I thought in the future I would just read Tommaso's blogs for a few years until they could settle the 0 versus 2 issue based on data.  ...

    Yes.  My point was basically that there is yet much to be determined about the characteristics of this particle.  All we really know, at this point, is that we have found a particle with this mass, and that it appears to decay in the ways we would expect of a Standard Model (SM) Higgs (scalar) boson.

    Now, as for the last sentence of your fist paragraph:  "A spin 2 ruling would be easy to hear about, no doubt it would be front page news ('God Particle DEAD')."  I don't know if the headlines would read anything like "God Particle DEAD", but I agree that a spin 2 fundamental particle would certainly be newsworthy.

    You end with:

    Now I am imagining a different future nightmare.  The data comes in, and the data mongers rule the particle is in fact spin 0 as everyone expected.  Great, it remains more than reasonable to say this signal is an excitation of the Higgs field, a small signal to us of the fields ubiquitous presence.  There will remain a pea under my pile of blankets now, because there could be some n quark zero spin composite particle no one has ever thought to model (n being greater that say 3 were we know all that is happening).  It is beyond my ability to understand the difference between the Higgs field and some super rare 6 quark salad.

    Welcome to the nature of Science!  Scientists have to remain aware of the subtle possibilities of nature!

    One cannot rule out various "lookalike" scenarios without good evidence.

    Really, even the "fundamental" particles we (think) we know (both Bosons and Fermions) could, possibly, be composite particles.  All we know is that we have a theory (the SM) that works well wherein these particles are treated as fundamental, and all we have are upper bounds on any possible physical extent to any of these same particles.

    (By the way, I don't believe we can say that "we know all that is happening" with two or three quark composites.  ;)  Additionally, I know that at least some theoreticians have considered the idea of certain composites involving four to six quarks [some probably involving both quarks and anti-quarks].)

    So, yes, keep your eyes, ears, and mind open.  Though don't keep your mind so open that your "brains fall out".  ;)

    David

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    So, we actually don't even know if this particle is a scalar boson.  We don't even know if it is a fundamental particle, or a composite particle.  (We already know of a great many "scalar" bosons that are composite particles, made of a quark/anti-quark pair, called mesons.  [All mesons are bosons, having integer spin, but not all have zero spin, so not all are "scalar".])
    So, there's interesting things yet to be determined about this particle.
    OK, let me reword that question then. How do we know that the boson that has now been proved with 5 sigma confidence about its likelihood to exist, is in fact the Higg's boson and not just some other boson with similar properties? Especially as you say below that :-
    Now, the Higgs field, by way of the Higgs mechanism for spontaneous symmetry breaking, does (in theory) give all (massive) fundamental (i.e. non-composite) particles their (rest) mass.
    However, even though this particle does appear to interact in ways very similar to what we expect, theoretically, from a (standard model [SM]) Higgs particle, born from the (SM) Higgs field, we must do further tests to determine to what extent it actually fits that model, or otherwise.
    Again, much more to be investigated!
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Halliday
    Helen:

    Even after (and before) you quote parts of my answer, you ask:

    How do we know that the boson that has now been proved with 5 sigma confidence about its likelihood to exist, is in fact the Higg's boson and not just some other boson with similar properties?  ...

    In the simplest of therms, my answer was that we don't.

    We don't even know if all its properties are "similar" (such as the spin being zero), let alone "is" (such as being fundamental [not composite], or having all the "correct" interactions).

    As I told Doug, above, "All we really know, at this point, is that we have found a particle with this mass, and that it appears to decay in the ways we would expect of a Standard Model (SM) Higgs (scalar) boson."

    As I had already told you, "there's interesting things yet to be determined about this particle", and "much more to be investigated!"

    This is what makes Physics fun!

    David

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    How do we know that the boson that has now been proved with 5 sigma confidence about its likelihood to exist, is in fact the Higg's boson and not just some other boson with similar properties?  ...
    In the simplest of terms, my answer was that we don't.

    I thought it was only the social scientists who were guilty of releasing misleading public headlines, scientifically claiming to have proved that something specific like the Higg's boson really exists, when the science is not or cannot yet be 100% or even 99.99% certain? Surely these HEP scientists only have a 5 sigma certainty that they have found a boson in this range, with similar properties to the Higg's boson but not a 5 sigma certainty that the boson that they have found is actually the Higg's boson?  So why the following worldwide headlines :-

    1. Higgs boson found: Scientists find 'God particle' after 40-year search ...

      4 Jul 2012 – We know it must be a boson and it's the heaviest boson ever found,' said.... 'There is no doubt that the Higgs particle exists and we now have to ...

      Higgs boson: scientists 99.999% sure 'God Particle' has been found ...



      Scientists believe they have captured the elusive "God particle" that gives matter mass and ... New result ...

      CERN: We have found the Higgs boson 'God particle' | ExtremeTech













      www.extremetech.com/.../132274-cer...4 Jul 2012 Scientists at CERN in Switzerland have announced the discovery of a new elementary particle, the first new ..


      Maybe they have only really found the Hiccup boson that some social scientists have been searching for for decades because they mistakenly believe that the Hiccup boson may be responsible for making many people, especially scientists, both drunk and fat?




    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Halliday
    Helen:

    You continue by asking:

    What evidence do we really have that this scalar boson gives all particles their mass?

    In more than one sense, as has already been expressed elsewhere on this site, the Higgs particle doesn't "give all particles their mass".

    Now, the Higgs field, by way of the Higgs mechanism for spontaneous symmetry breaking, does (in theory) give all (massive) fundamental (i.e. non-composite) particles their (rest) mass.

    However, even though this particle does appear to interact in ways very similar to what we expect, theoretically, from a (standard model [SM]) Higgs particle, born from the (SM) Higgs field, we must do further tests to determine to what extent it actually fits that model, or otherwise.

    Again, much more to be investigated!

    David

    The Stand-Up Physicist
    High energy particle people rarely talk about gravity.  My pipe dream remains that a new understanding of inertial mass is related to gravitational mass, so there is a sense of why the equivalence principle works.  I gather both folks who work on strings and loop quantum gravity people claim to have the bridge to link initial and gravitational mass, but I have yet to understand their work.
    Halliday
    Doug:

    Actually, a significant portion of this "bridge" was forged with Einstein's equivalence of inertial mass and energy, which works (or "cuts") both ways!  In fact, for the mesons and baryons (collectively referred to as hadrons, namely the particles composed of multiple quarks), the principle contributor to their inertial masses is the energy of the motion of the quarks and the gluons.

    However, with General Relativity (GR), it was found that energy-momentum was not all that related to "gravitational mass", or, in other words, contributed to the curvature of spacetime.  No, there is another conserved (tensor) quantity that includes not only energy-momentum, but other "stresses" and "strains", like "pressure" (in a rather classical sense), and more.  All such things contribute!  (Even the simple electromagnetic field has more than just energy-momentum, but such a tensor as well.)

    So, it would seem that simply having "a new understanding of inertial mass" is unlikely to accomplish the connection.  ;)

    David

    Halliday
    Helen:

    You then ask:

    Could there be other kinds of bosons [besides the scalar Higgs boson] that give spacetime for example, its space and time?

    Well, actually, the Higgs scalar boson doesn't "give spacetime ... its space and time".  It really doesn't have much at all to do with spacetime (especially since the theoretical model to which it belongs simply assumes a rigid, flat spacetime!).

    Even the "graviton", if such actually exists, doesn't have much to do with spacetime, either.  It's theoretical model is likewise rigidly flat!  (It's model is also internally inconsistent!  But that's another story altogether.)

    Of course, just as the Higgs particle is born as an excitation of the Higgs field, it may be possible that there may be some kind of "excitation" of spacetime itself that may manifest itself as a "particle" of some kind.

    Unfortunately, we still don't have a satisfactory theory that combines the capabilities of both Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity (despite the claims of Sting theorists).

    David

    P.S.  I'll have to get to the more specific questions about the graviton later.

    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thank you for answering many of my questions David and for so patiently sharing your considerable knowledge.
    Could there be other kinds of bosons [besides the scalar Higgs boson] that give spacetime for example, its space and time?
    Well, actually, the Higgs scalar boson doesn't "give spacetime ... its space and time".  It really doesn't have much at all to do with spacetime (especially since the theoretical model to which it belongs simply assumes a rigid, flat spacetime!).

    I worded that badly, I didn't mean the Higg's boson gives spacetime its space and time I just meant another boson.

    Of course, just as the Higgs particle is born as an excitation of the Higgs field, it may be possible that there may be some kind of "excitation" of spacetime itself that may manifest itself as a "particle" of some kind.

    Very interesting. 

    Even the "graviton", if such actually exists, doesn't have much to do with spacetime, either.  It's theoretical model is likewise rigidly flat!  (It's model is also internally inconsistent!  But that's another story altogether.) 
    This also sounds like a very interesting story :)
    My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Why the Higgs is a bad ballerina and also why Helen is a bad blogger!

    Halliday
    Now that's uncalled for.

    If you have certain legitimate issues you can take up with Helen (as some of us have done), then that's one thing.  But such a blanket ad hominem is not appropriate.

    Higgs Boson / "God Particle" -2012 Science validates a 150+ year old discovery ……............Infinite Intelligence….Steve Meyer / New Thought Movement / HolisticDNA

    The Sixth Sense Activation Sequence – GROUNDBREAKING New Book in 2012!

    "New Thought promotes the ideas that "Infinite Intelligence" or "God" is ubiquitous, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and "right thinking" has a healing effect..." Wikipedia

    Gerhard Adam
    What ?!?  No mention of Mayan prophecy or Niburu?  What a fraud.
    Mundus vult decipi