Higgs Research Could Lead to Unimagined Discoveries

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-07-05 Print this article Print

You wouldn€™t have a cell phone or an iPad without the electron€™s tunneling effect. This basic aspect of quantum physics has real-world applications that are both negative (it affects the minimum size of integrated circuits and their power loss characteristics) and positive uses in electronics. 

At this point, nobody knows what the likely applications might be for the Higgs Boson. In fact, right now nobody knows for sure what its exact characteristics are or even whether there is only one type of Higgs Boson, or perhaps multiple types. The scientists at CERN and elsewhere still have a lot more data to sift through, and a lot more testing to be accomplished.  

But the good news for scientists, and eventually for you, is that the existence of this particle has been proven, that it€™s almost certainly the Higgs Boson and that means the Standard Model of quantum mechanics is correct. This in turn means that resources can be focused on this part of quantum mechanics. Eventually those resources can be used to describe the Higgs Boson more exactly and to determine how it manages to impart mass on other particles and what it is about other particles that makes them more or less affected by the Higgs field and the virtual particles that comprise it. 

But what will it mean for you? Well, right now nobody knows, just as nobody knew until recently what the quantum effects of the electron could do for you. As it turned out, not only are we able to take advantage of those quantum effects, but we understand the limits imposed on devices we build because of those quantum effects. And while the existence of electrical resistance has been known since electricity started being used, who would have suspected the existence of negative resistance in tunneling devices? 

Does this mean that we could see the emergence of effects of things such as negative mass and thus anti-gravity, as an outgrowth of the Higgs Boson discovery? Probably not, since the description of mass doesn€™t seem to allow for negative numbers. But that only means that we don€™t understand mass as thoroughly as we need to. Perhaps the discovery of the Higgs Boson will help us with that understanding. Ultimately, it€™s the growth in understanding that€™s critical to the applications that may come from this discovery. 

One other note €“ if the reference to CERN seems strangely familiar to you, that capable laboratory was responsible for a development that affects your life every day. The World Wide Web was invented at CERN and that€™s the site for the first ever Web server. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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