Monday, 27 February 2017

HIGGS BOSON - The Hamlet of Particle Physics !

The following is the gist of an abstraction currently featured in the 21st  revised edition of V.H. Ironside, Behold! I Teach You Superman.

                                                 Hear, I pray you, the dream that I dreamed, my friends, and help me to divine its meaning.

   Where energy is converted into mass, intelligence is transmuted into representative perception. Indeed, nobody will ever get to the end of the physicist’s rainbow, his ability to ‘create’ ever new particles. It is infinite. A Pandora’s box of never-ending hope and infinite solutions. In fact, virtuals are not a solution, they are the description of a problem, and so long as there is hope, the problem is
called a particle. Truth to tell, no one has even half an inkling about the notion of living conceptually. We neglect entirely the fact that our ideas of physical space are directly related to inherently anthropomorphous conceptions and that these mind-creations come into life as the fundamental form of its thought. For even when anatomized in meticulous detail, there is undoubtedly something cognitive in the material evolution  of contemporary physics and its most fundamental doctrine: that the particle is only half the equation. The other half is mind itself, the intelligent participator with his conceptual commitment to the four dimensions of the continuum. For whatever philosophical position we take, if theoretical physics creates its means out of itself, i.e., without introducing any knowledge from  the world ‘outside’,  it seems clear by all accounts that when the door is closed and the position assimilated, it also assumes  the reality of the result. Nor can we ever hope to grasp the concept of actual reality because it is only in terms of the knowledge it has proved to itself that reality is defined. Instead of the a priori being absorbed, the conceptual images of classical matter and form are abstracted from it. Whether it is in pairs of hadrons and leptons, or in triplets of quarks, and served in a minuet of ‘flavours’ and ‘colours’, the metaphors struggle to capture the living reality. Somehow they are beyond words,  in essence no more than a matter of gossip - the grin without the Cheshire Cat.
            The words are guarded. Terms like virtual or messenger mask the reality behind the standard model of particle physics. In fact, the term particle itself is deceptive, since all such subatomic units, whether fermions or bosons also have wave-like properties. Exact details of such fundamentals need not detain us here,  but if the standard model consists of three generations of matter particles, plus a collection of force particles, then  the Higgs boson - as another version of the Doctrine of Immaculate Conception - is but the last custodian of the Riddle of Creation, the one remaining conduit to the origins of the universe, the spells, incantations and mysteries which God alone was meant to unlock. And God himself made precisely this point in a very public announcement: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:35).

            That being the doctrine of matter which dare not speak its name, it accordingly stipulates the conditions to which phenomena must conform if they are to be perceived, i.e., if they are to interact with matter in order to create mass. Born of man’s discontinuous understanding of separate moments, the Higgs boson is a fundamental, inescapable  property of the world, or conversely, the application of what is known as the anthropic principle. Located not at “the spatial or temporal end of the universe” – but, it has been claimed, “at the explanatory end”,[1] it fingers the fundamental question about identity and self-determination:  To be or not to be? And that, indeed, is the game changer. No one is likely to forget the longed-for manifestation of the Higgs boson at CERN in 2013. Re-created as the Hamlet of particle physics, the Higgs is the procrastinating Genie that is inherently conceptual, and highly phenomenal - rather than super-symmetrical, and which at the end of the day takes time back to its point of origin. 
            The correspondence is analogous of course, but  it is certainly conceivable that the virtual particle emulates the efforts of the human mind to find not only self-expression, but expression also of an elementary idea. A sort of coercive formula, one might say, guided by a sense of mathematical structure which brings the unknowable secrets into harmony with a system of belief as an anthropic prime-principle and in such a way that it satisfies all the conditions necessary for the system to be true. Created purposefully and unmistakably by an idea, it does give the universe a measure of suggestion that tends to match up to the expectations, the imagery and the vocabulary of the mind or, indeed, to the symmetry between mind and matter, wave and particle, that is such a fundamental feature of  its virtual forms. In fact, it seems almost unnecessary to add that the interdependence of matter and mind has come to be one of the central problems of a modern theory of knowledge, for nobody can tell precisely where the line of distinction should actually be drawn.
            Penetrating beyond matter into thought itself, the spheres of a virtual and real identity always overlap, as do those of the classical and the quantum world. And a unified field theory, or indeed, a Theory of Everything which can be mathematically formulated as an a priori theory about the origin and structure of the universe, will always lend itself to the formulation, in logical or equivalent terms, of an a priori theory about the structure and method of human  consciousness. In which case, of course, this theory would not be reflective of the universe as such, but it would be a theory thrust on to the observer by the discriminating action of the mind and articulated as a property of the mind, rather than of matter. 

                                   The Virtual Particle - More lives than Schrödinger’s cat !

[1]The Higg’s isn’t located at the spatial or temporal “end of the universe” – it’s located at the explanatory end. It’s the final piece of the puzzle of how the ordinary matter that makes up our everyday world works at a deep level. Sean Carroll, The Particle at the End of the Universe p 25 

No comments: