Saturday, December 20, 2014

Higgs: The Higgs Boson May Not Be God, But It's Also No WIMP

Higgs the cat explains why the Higgs is not the dark matter.

Higgs: The Higgs Boson May Not Be God, But It’s Also No WIMP

F.F. Higgs wants to take on some reader questions about the Higgs Boson:

Higgs: Thanks for all the interesting comments on my last post. I’d like to clarify a couple of points. One reader took me to task for not pointing that Morgan Freeman said on TV that the Higgs is the dark matter. Well, if Morgan Freeman said so on TV it must be true - not.

The Higgs particle is definitely not the dark matter. Dark matter is something astronomers discovered because it pulls things around through its gravitational tug. Whole galaxies are dragged around the sky by the invisible tide of dark matter.

Some of this is just dust or some other kind of regular old matter that doesn't shine. but there are accounding methods that say we can only have so much regular old matter in the universe so some of the dark matter must be made of an unusual kind of particle unlike any that have been observed. The as yet unidentified particles are called WIMPS, for weakly interacting massive particles.

The Higgs is not a wimp. I’m not just saying that out of vanity. WIMPs can just hang out in space and do their thing while the Higgs Boson is unstable and only exists for less than a billionth of a second before being transformed into more stable particles that leave tracks in those detectors at CERN. It is massive but it’s not a wimp.

Another reader  wrote that we should have included the fact that the term God Particle was the title of a book by Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman, and that Lederman originally wanted to call it the God Damned Particle. I covered that in a post last December. The anecdote is not quite amusing enough to rouse me from my slumbers.

And still another reader pointed out that the name Higgs particle is no more descriptive than the name God particle, but at least there’s some rhyme and reason to the name Higgs since a human being named Peter Higgs really did think of a smart idea that became known as the Higgs mechanism. He also predicted the presence of the Higgs particle. Wikipedia says that since other people thought of the same thing independently, it’s also been called the Brout–Englert–Higgs mechanism, Englert–Brout–Higgs–Guralnik–Hagen–Kibble mechanism, and Anderson–Higgs mechanism. That list is getting unwiedly, IMHO. And now you want to add God too?

If you believe God created everything, then She also created the electron and the muon and the tau neutrino and all the quarks. The Higgs is no more connected to God than any of the rest. Why don’t we just designate the tau neutrino as the God particle instead? It could use a little boost these days. Or maybe we should let the bottom quark get to be the God particle.

Thanks for letting me express my views….Higgs.



About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at Reach Planet of the at

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