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Monday November 30, 2015
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The Boson Bet



A: In a word, no. But I've been married to this stuff for fifty-three years so I have some thoughts about it. The main thing is, I think I understand scale. I understand that we can describe, in words, what physics knows about the world when things are the size that we can see. And also I have some sort of notion of things at the size of all the bosons. Too small to see, but detectable at accelerators. They are not exactly seen at accelerators. Their effects on other particles are seen. Physicists use math to understand the patterns the effects make.

They read mathematical explanations of patterns the same way we read menus. It is real to them. A big equation is as clear as thoughts about a hamburger.

I sort of understand that the effect of the Higgs boson is to give mass to other particles, which is sort of (I have to say "sort of" a lot) like photons providing what we think of as light.

Q: Why was it such a big deal that the Higgs boson was discovered by the machine at CERN?

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