Friday, May 29, 2009

Happy 80th Birthday Prof. Peter Higgs!

Peter Higgs, the eminent British physicist who co-proposed a mechanism for how particles in the universe acquired mass, turns 80 today. The Higgs mechanism supposes that the very early cosmos went through a phase transition, similar to the freezing of water into ice. Just as ice freezes into particular patterns, Higgs posited that the universe "froze" into special values of mass. Consequently, the stuff of matter is weighty rather than ethereal.

If Higgs's theory is correct, a remnant of the agent that caused the transition should be around today, at an energy that may be detectable in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Thus, one of the LHC's goals is the quest for the long-sought Higgs particle (nicknamed the "God Particle").

Wishing Prof. Higgs many happy returns! Let's hope he will soon be able to unwrap a wonderful present -- news of the discovery of the particle that bears his name.

More information about the quest for the Higgs particle can be found in my new book: Collider: The Search for the World's Smallest Particles

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