So, the Higgs boson has been found. At 126 GeV, it appears to have a healthy appetite. This is a triumphant moment for the Standard Model. The Higgs boson discovery completed the model’s predictions and this is indeed a great achievement of the minds behind it. Thankfully, I was never a naysayer as far as the Standard Model and the Higgs boson were concerned. Phew! That was a close one!
But… now that we found the Higgs, what are we gonna do with it? (You can sing this last phrase to the tune of “Now that we found love”.) Of course, the Higgs boson discovery carries great importance. But it may also be the discovery that finalizes the correctness of the Standard Model so that no further deductions can be made from it.
Thus, it may be that we are stuck again. We found the Higgs boson and we understand its role, but now we do not know where to go from here.
Of course, many theories were built on the assumption that the Higgs boson existed, thus, these theories have at least one of their assumptions correct. But this is as far as things go at this point.
So, the standard Model has been proven in its entirety. But why is it that some particles interact with the Higgs field and obtain mass, whereas others do not and remain without mass? Why is it that different particles that do interact with the Higgs field do so in varying proportions and thus, obtain different amounts of mass? Why is it that each particle kind interacts differently with the Higgs field?
And these questions are just for starters. As far as I know, we lack a quantitative theory that predicts the amount of mass each particle should obtain. And we also lack a Grand Unified Theory that unites all forces. And we still cannot, for the life of us, find a theory that makes all different elementary particles come together in our understanding, the way the Periodic Table of the Elements, electron shells and the valence shell did for the different elements. (To understand what I mean by this last phrase, please watch the excellent video “The Higgs Boson Explained”.) Group Theory and Quantum Theory have been fundamental tools in our efforts of discovering, studying and categorizing the elementary particles, but they may not have given us an ultimate understanding of their purpose and significance.
Fortunately, there is a person who is not afraid to put things in perspective. Stephen Wolfram, best known as the creator of Mathematica, has also done important work in elementary particle Physics. (Hey, with that name, he had to be an outstanding person.) In his blog post “A Moment for Particle Physics: The End of a 40-Year Story?”, Stephen Wolfram clarifies where we are at the moment, after the discovery of the Higgs boson.
The way I understand it, we are in need of a theory to advance Physics, the way the Relativity theory and the Quantum theory did in their day. We do not have that theory yet.
Now, when I mention the word “theory”, I mean “theory that can be experimentally verified”. Otherwise it is just speculation. Not that speculation is not needed and is not important. But it is not enough. Physics has to have experimentally verifiable models, experimentally verifiable theories.
Let us hope that such a theory will soon be found. Supersymmetry may be that theory, but no one can be sure of that yet. Some have a strong belief that this theory will be the one that will be proven correct, but we all have to understand that in this day and age it is just another unverified theory. Trying to make it something more than it is, may be unfair. I certainly think so. I feel uncomfortable when I see people fiercely advocating Supersymmetry, when it is yet unproven as a theory. Thankfully, I was watching a documentary and a scientist said: “There are physicists and there are string theorists”. Now this is something I agree with! Unfortunately, I do not remember the name of the scientist, so I cannot attribute this phrase to him, but I thank him from the bottom of my heart for his point of view.
You see, Physics is advanced when theories get proven. Unproven theories should not be force fed to us. Yet, some string theorists want to assume the role of mankind’s great saviors. But things do not “work” that way in Physics. All theories have to first be tested and proven. So, this scientist has done the world a great good, by separating physicists from string theorists, at least for the time being, that is, until string theory gets proven.
Of course, the job of physicists is to produce models and theories, such as string theory and Supersymmetry. But the point I am trying to make is that string theorists should be more humble than they are now. Anyway, we have yet a lot to discover, as far as Physics is concerned. The discovery of the Higgs boson, important as it may be, does not seem to be able to lead us much further than we are now: stuck with a handful of unproven theories, struggling more than ever to make sense of the Universe.