The Race for the Higgs Boson

Apr 2, 2014

Simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
Credit Lucas Taylor / Wikimedia Commons

Scientists made an announcement on July 4, 2012 to little fanfare outside the world of scholarly physicists that ended a 50-year search to explain the existence of life as we know it. 

They discovered the elusive Higgs boson, a particle acting as an invisible force field running through the universe, allowing other particles like electrons, protons, and neutrons, to take on mass. 

Today's show is about the search for the Higgs boson, a hitherto undiscovered particle which may explain everything, but only if you've been wondering about everything in a certain way. Einstein said the only question is whether the universe is a friendly place or not. The quest for the Higgs boson and the measurement of it sharpens the point of that question. I don't want to spoil too much of the conversation coming up on this show, but the consensus among physicists has been that knowing more about the Higgs  meaning knowing more about whether the universe is essentially orderly and symmetrical and as one physicist says, "a nice place to live," the alternative, a chaotic multi-verse in which the laws of nature in our small sliver are a matter of  random chance and are therefore essentially meaningless, which means the end of physics--in a way.

"Particle Fever," the story of the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson, opens at Real Art Ways in Hartford this Friday, April 4. The show starts at 7 PM and will be followed by a post-film discussion with our guests, UConn professor Philip Mannheim and Yale professor Sarah Demers.

And, the Science on Screen series continues at Real Art Ways on Tuesday, April 8, with "Mission to Mars," the Sci-Fi story of the astronauts of a Mars Recovery Mission. Dr. Martha Gilmore, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Wesleyan University will speak at 7 PM, followed by the film screening.


Dr. Philip Mannheim is a professor of Physics at the University of Connecticut and the author of "Brane-Localized Gravity."

Dr. Sarah Demers is an assistant professor of Physics at Yale University. She also worked on the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva Switzerland. She recently wrote this article for The Atlantic and co-conceived and directed  a short video on the Higgs boson, "Three Views of the Higgs and Dance."

Dr. Michio Kaku is a theoretical physicist and the author of several NYT best selling books including his most recent, “The Future of the Mind.” He’s a professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York (CUNY) He is also a futurist, and the co-founder of String Field Theory.