Tuesday, April 08, 2008

In the Beginning Was the Higgs Field

The Independent reports today on the quest for the 'God particle'. The new Large Hadron Collider - a massive circular tunnel designed for the sole purpose of ramming atoms into each other at almost the speed of light - is about to come onstream, and scientists are hoping it will open up the world of sub-atomic particles in a new way.

The article says:

(the experiment) will also solve one of the most pressing problems in science because the Higgs boson lies at the heart of matter itself. In particular it is supposed to explain why objects have mass and while some phenomena – such as light – do not.

Professor Higgs was the first to propose the theory that the reason why objects have mass is because they interact with an invisible field, now called the Higgs field. Heavier particles interact more strongly, whereas photons (light particles) do not interact at all. Without this Higgs field, everything – from proton to planet – would be as insubstantial as a light beam.

Ancient Greek thinking has the concept of the Logos, the power of reason behind the cosmos, which seeds itself into every piece of matter (the 'logos spermatikos'). Thus the Logos is a field, and something which interacts with all matter to keep it in existence and give it substance.

When the apostle John was looking for a way to explain to Greek thinkers who Jesus was, this is the concept he picks up. The Logos, who is God, the source of all that is, this Logos has become a human being.

The 'Higgs field' was dismissed on its first airing 40 years ago, and I must admit, it doesn't sound quite as good as Logos. It's quite awe-inspiring to read what conditions might be needed: the tunnels cooled to the point of being the coldest place in the known universe, microscopes the size of cathedrals etc. Finding God in a Cathedral, or in extreme weather, there's a novel thought....

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