Tag Archives: Science

Yes, Virgina, there might be a God Particle

I saw on Yahoo! this morning that scientist have found the Higgs Boson “god particle”, but when I clicked on the link I was disappointed that they were only just closer to finding that ever illusive little thing.

This is part of what was contained in the article:

After decades of careful experiment, physicists say they have found the “strongest indication to date” to prove the existence of the Higgs boson — a subatomic particle so important to the understanding of space, time and matter that the physicist Leon Lederman nicknamed it “the God particle.”

The announcement today, based on experiments at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab near Chicago and other institutions, is not the final word, but it’s very close. And it comes just before a major meeting this week in Australia, where more findings will be announced from the giant underground particle accelerator at CERN, the great physics lab in the Alps on the French-Swiss border.

“This is one of the cornerstones of how we understand the universe,” said Rob Roser, a Fermilab physicist, “and if it’s not there, we have to go back and check our assumptions about how the universe exists.”

Roser said he expected the CERN scientists to offer more evidence of the Higgs particle, though they will also be cautious. “The Higgs particle, if it’s real, will show itself in different ways. We need for all of them to be consistent before we can say for sure we’ve seen it.”

This is from an article from Reasons to Believe that was posted earlier this week.

It’s easy to take the precise cosmological measurements for granted, like the universe being 13.75 +/- 0.11 billion years old and comprised of 4.56 +/- 0.16 percent of normal atoms. Yet I can remember, in February 2003, waiting anxiously for a seminar that would reveal the first results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) satellite—during a time when scientists were far less certain of these cosmological parameters. Many scientists (myself included) expected the WMAP results to confirm the inflationary big bang model (with cold dark matter and dark energy), but, based on what I sensed from others in the room, some have hoped the results would disprove the model. A similar tension exists today as eager scientists head into a week of announcements concerning the Higgs boson.

Here is a list of how to stay updated with the expected announcements:

On July 2, Fermilab will share the latest results from its data and analysis. Since the Tevatron ceased operations over a year ago, the news from Fermilab will probably only give hints at a possible Higgs detection.

On July 4, CERN will update a December 13, 2011 news release about the Higgs boson indicating “signs of its existence.” The addition of this year’s data to the “signs” from last year led many interested parties to expect a discovery announcement.

On July 7, during the ICHEP in Australia, talks relevant to the Higgs boson search will be webcast live.

On July 9, the combined results of two LHC detectors, capable of detecting the Higgs, CMS, and ATLAS, will be part of plenary sessions delivered at the ICHEP (and webcast live). Even if the detectors do not achieve (individually) the required signal to declare detection, the combined signal from both should.

This coming week should resolve what the instruments reveal so far.

If the Higgs boson is proven to exist, it would complete the zoo of fundamental particles in the standard model of particle physics. The zoo contains three classes of particles. First, six quarks (up, down, charm, strange, bottom, and top) make up the more familiar proton and neutron (and a host of other, more exotic particles). Second, there are three leptons (the electron, muon, and tauon) and their corresponding neutrinos. Lastly, four kinds of bosons are the particles that mediate the electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces.

Although scientists know lots about the zoo, they can’t explain the masses of various particles unless something like a Higgs boson exists. If it does, this means that a Higgs “field” pervades space, and all the other particles gain mass by interacting with this field. Detecting the Higgs would cap a fifty-year search for understanding particles mass.

But what if the Higgs doesn’t exist?

The main motivation for building the LHC was to detect the Higgs boson. A non-detection would tell us that the Higgs doesn’t exist and that the current explanation for understanding mass is wrong. Though this might seem like a bad thing, it isn’t.

Ultimately, scientists want to know how all of the four fundamental forces unify under one common theoretical umbrella. The standard model of particle physics provides that umbrella for the electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear interactions. General relativity provides the best explanation for gravity but is fundamentally incompatible with the standard model. Also, the existence of dark matter and dark energy require physics beyond the standard model. A nonexistent Higgs (or even detecting a Higgs that doesn’t match the one required by the standard model) would provide important clues to the model that brings gravity, dark matter, and dark energy under the umbrella. For example, the results of the Higgs search could reveal that supersymmetry models, which predict an expanded zoo of particles (and naturally explain dark matter), are correct.

I fully expect the announcement of a Higgs-like particle sometime this week. I also realize that further research remains in order to verify that such a particle has all the properties required by the standard model. And if it does, one must wonder whether the Higgs will reveal any fine-tuning required to make a universe capable of supporting life. Based on past experience, I would bet on it.

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Science on Sexual Development

Just as people have used the Bible and biblical understanding against homosexuality throughout the ages, those who support homosexuality have sought to use science to understand the sexuality of humans along with that development to see if there was another sign of its origin besides disobedience to God.

Dr Bruce Bagemihl is a biologist who has documented the occurrences of homosexual activities among animals in nature. Homosexual behavior has occurred in more than 450 different kinds of animals worldwide. These animals are found in every geographic region and in every major animal group. “On every continent, animals of the same sex seek each other out and have probably been doing so for millions of years…they court each other, using intricate mating dances that are a result of eons of evolution.” It is of no surprise to biologist that same sex relations occur in the animal world. It has been documented that there would be male on male penetration as an act of dominance, but with more detailed study, courtship and mating same sex couples have been indentified among many different species. There is documentation that indicates that female homosexual behavior in Japanese macaques is of a sexual orientation and not simply a sociosexual one. Robin McKie wrote an article detailing the gay penguins at the New York zoo, who were affectionate towards each other and even had sex and a desire to procreate.

Genetic study has gone to great lengths to try and identify a “gay gene”. While they have not been able to accomplish this as of yet, scientist are confident that one will be found. Even if homosexuality is shown to have a genetic component, many scientists do not think that the gene will be the deciding factor upon the sexual orientation of a person. “The gene will be one component, all be it a large component, of the sexual orientation of a person. The biology and social environment will always play a crucial part in determining the sexual orientation whether it be of an animal or human.”

What is being seen is that there is a direct correlation of homosexual orientation between animals and between humans. The similarities go to show that contrary to biblical writers that homosexuality is a very natural occurrence, even though it only naturally occurs in a minority of any given population. While researches look to point to a truly biological tie to people being born gay, the Church must now wrestle with the understanding that some people are born and develop with a same sex attraction.

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