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The Not-All-That-Important Higgs Bosun Particle

July 5, 2012 · 0 comments

The Standard Model does not explain our universe, not even close. But what it does explain is proven…except that due to its glaring omissions in describing the actual universe, we can expect that some of what it proves will be found to be incomplete or in error.

(Dark matter may make up 98 percent of all matter in the universe, and the standard model doesn’t cover that. So that’s a pretty significant omission. And it doesn’t cover gravity, which is also a pretty big omission.)

So the Higgs-Boson “God Particle” is like a step in a marathon. To win a marathon, each step is important, but the crowd isn’t going to be shouting “look at that amazing step!” for just one step. Yes, to a large degree, proving the existence of the Higgs “completes” the standard model. So the excitement is for the “completeness” of a badly incomplete explanation.

Also, it’s more clear that some kind of bosun has been discovered than it is that this is the Higgs. Considering that the standard model understands so little about the universe we actually live in, there’s a not insignificant chance that there’s something more to learn about this bosun/from this bosun beyond it being simply a perfect fit for the Higgs slot in the standard model.

In my lifetime (I’m 52) I’ve watched new medical and scientific information accepted as true today fought against tooth and nail by scientists and doctors. For example, the existence of H. pylori (helping explain ulcers), or Plate Tectonics (helping explain earthquakes).

The (now) old saw popularized by Carl Sagan “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” to me is often misleading.

Because the Standard Model has such an enormous weight of proof behind it, if you claim to explain something in a way different than the Standard Model does, that would certainly be an extraordinary claim, hence requiring “extraordinary evidence.”

On the other hand, making a claim such as “the Standard Model doesn’t explain our universe” isn’t an extraordinary claim at all. It’s simply a statement of fact. The significant incompleteness of the Standard Model points to a future with new information.

So you would expect people to respond to new claims along the lines of “we’ve been expecting something new, so although it will need a lot of evidence to stack up against all the evidence we have for existing claims, let’s have a look.” What really happens is the people in the know tend to respond with a lot of anger or indifference to new information.

How do you measure what is an “extraordinary claim?” If you watch these processes over time, you see that a large part of how claims are measured are by the emotions of scientists.

Ideas that better explain processes (such as Plate Tectonics) are rejected because of emotional attachment to existing knowledge (eventually, seismology supported Plate Tectonics with some proof). Ideas with a lot of clear proof behind them (such as H. pylori) are resisted emotionally as well. People resist weighing unproven claims against one another due to emotional attachment to existing knowledge. People resist weighing actual evidence due to emotional attachment to existing knowledge.

Science and religion are shown to have an interesting similarity: The most vocal people in both groups rely on their emotional belief that what they know is correct to resist new information, demonstrating what looks like an emotional desire for knowledge that is unchanging.

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