January 24, 2012
The Higgs boson explained in plain English
1. The Higgs Mechanism
Imagine a cocktail party (above) of political party workers who are uniformly distributed across the floor, all talking to their nearest neighbors. The ex-Prime-Minister enters and crosses the room. All of the workers in her neighborhood are strongly attracted to her and cluster round her. As she moves she attracts the people she comes close to, while the ones she has left return to their even spacing. Because of the knot of people (below)
always clustered around her she acquires a greater mass than normal, that is, she has more momentum for the same speed of movement across the room. Once moving she is harder to stop, and once stopped she is is harder to get moving again because the reclustering process has to be restarted. in three dimensions, and with the complications of relativity, this is the Higgs mechanism. In order to give particles mass, a background field is invented which becomes locally distorted whenever a particle moves through it. The distortion — the clustering of the field around the particle — generates the particle's mass. The idea comes directly from the physics of solids. Instead of a field spread throughout all space, a solid contains a lattice of positively-charged crystal atoms. When an electron moves through the lattice the atoms are attracted to it, causing the electron's effective mass to be as much as 40 times bigger than the mass of a free electron. The postulated Higgs field in the vacuum is a sort of hypothetical lattice which fills our universe.
2. The Higgs Boson
Now consider a rumor passing passing through our room full of uniformly-spread political workers. Those near the door (below)
hear of it first and cluster together to get the details, then they turn and move closer to their next neighbors who want to know about it too. A wave of clustering passes through the room. It may spread out to all the corners, or it may form a compact bunch (below)
which carries the news along a line of workers from the door to some dignitary at the other side of the room. Since the information is carried by clusters of people, and since it was clustering which gave extra mass to the ex-Prime Minister, then the rumor-carrying clusters also have mass. The Higgs boson is predicted to be just such a clustering in the Higgs field. We will find it much easier to believe that the field exists, and that the mechanism for giving other particles mass is true, if we actually see the Higgs particle itself.
[via David J. Miller, Physics and Astronomy, University College London, who titled the preceding "A quasi-political explanation of the Higgs boson for Mr. Waldegrave, U.K. Science Minister, 1993." Cartoons courtesy of CERN. Post inspired by Elizabeth Sterzinger, one of my crack team of Chicago correspondents. She's both a muse and amusing, an all-too-rare combination.]
"Glasses were put in a kiln at a very high temperature until they reached their melting point. The process resulted in a slow deformation. Each glass is unique."
Amazon Trade-In Store
Long story short: Look at the graphic up top.
Shoe Tree Tulips
From the website:
Stop hiding your wonderful shoes under a bushel in a shoe cabinet.
With this shoe tree they will become an attractive, beautiful highlight that every woman will envy.
What woman hasn't dreamed of having her most precious pumps displayed as a decorative feature?
Each and every girlfriend will turn green with envy.
And if you really have lots of shoes, that's no problem!
Join several trees together to create a large and whimsical tulip flower bed.
Blind-mounted with two galvanized panhead screws; 5.0 x 60 mm; fully-threaded; two wall plugs (screws and wall plugs included).
2mm steel plate; steel tube with glued-on styrofoam tips; green & orange powder-coated surfaces.
75cm L x 22cm W x 45cm H.
€199 (shoes not included).
Gibraltar Airport, where planes and cars meet daily
"Gibraltar is the only major airport where the runway actually intersects with a major highway. When a plane has to take off or land,car traffic is shut down."
Anyone reading this ever flown into or out of Gibralter Airport? Or driven across it?
If so, tell us about it.
Limited-Edition Octopus Chair
Created by Spanish artist Maximo Riera.
"The octopus sculpture is created from compressed foam sections that are then attached and painted by hand to create the intricate details. Upholstered in black leather, the tentacles extend 1.5 meters."
"Each chair is hand-built by a team of over thirty professionals, overseen by Riera himself."
Our lady of the bugs
"Lady Bug" is a 2010 creation
by Hungarian sculptor Gábor Fülöp.
I don't know
whether these bugs were once alive
or were made from scratch by the artist.
Perhaps my Hungarian posse will fill me in.
Of course, I could email the artist and ask
but what fun would that be?
Crust Be Dreaming — USB Toasty Hand Warmers
From the website:
On those mornings when it's just too chilly to sit bare-handed at your computer, pop on these sweet toast-shaped hand warmers to keep all 10 fingers snuggly while you type.
Powered by USB cords that connect to your computer, these hand warmers feature three levels of warmth to satisfy any taste or temperature.
Just slip a slice on each hand and secure it with its adjustable wrist strap before devouring that blizzard of emails or avalanche of homework without a single shiver.
[via DMS, my crack Baton Rouge correspondent]