The Large Hadron Collider: Who gives a Higgs Boson Anyway?


  • Colm Stephens


By now the Large Hadron Collider or LHC and the Higgs boson have become big news. Countless newspaper articles over the past year or so have tried to keep their readers up to date on the progress towards finding the so-called `God particle'. Despite the acres of newsprint and millions of web pages how many of us actually have a real grasp of what is going on in the tunnels below the Swiss-French border close to Geneva? Perhaps that is not surprising as the newspaper articles and web pages have attempted to explain the significance of the most advanced physics experiments that are being done with the most elaborate and complex machine ever built by humankind in a few short paragraphs. A couple of columns inches squeezed between the quarter page advertisements in a weekend supplement isn't perhaps sufficient to give the non-physicist enough information to get more than a superficial grasp of what is being attempted and achieved scientifically or, more importantly, form an opinion as to the usefulness and worth of the biggest scientific experiment ever. Nevertheless the LHC and the Higgs Boson have become part of our culture and might also be described as household terms. Authors of popular fiction like Dan Browne have embraced the perceived weirdness of the physics being done at the LHC to create science fiction. In the novel Angel's & Demons antimatter supposedly created in the LHC is used as a weapon against the Vatican. The Irish crime novelist, John Connolly, has published two children's novels in which the hero, a boy called Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, fight the forces of evil when the (not very bright) scientists running the LHC manage to unwittingly open the gates of Hell and release a horde of devils and demons to roam the Earth and create mayhem and havoc.