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Posts Tagged ‘Theory of everything’

What Would God Think of the God Particle? (Part 2)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 29, 2013

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University

Deepak ChopraThe “God particle” seems to be well and truly with us. The award on October 3 of the Nobel Prize in physics that focused on the Higgs boson – the technical term for the God particle – capped a decades-long search that has cost billions of dollars. In the first post we discussed why the discovery of the elusive, fleeting Higgs boson is two-edged. It represents a triumph in human curiosity and our drive to understand the universe. At the same time, however, a huge stumbling block hasn’t been overcome. In fact, the Higgs boson may indicate that creation (whether God exists or not) is becoming ever more mysterious.

The mammoth collider at CERN Switzerland blasted the Higgs boson out of the invisible quantum field so that it could be observed, at the faintest level of measurement and then only for precious milliseconds. But this was enough to disclose the finest level of the subatomic realm so far known to be real. The problem with getting this close to the source of creation is that space, time, gravity, matter, and energy have become more and more ambiguous, as if the quantum revolution hadn’t already done enough in that department. With the probability that so-called “dark” matter and energy may account for 96 percent of the universe – along with another probability, that “dark” stuff doesn’t obey the same laws as visible mater and energy – the picture of creation is undergoing radical revision.

Stephen Hawking added to the ambiguity in his last book, The Grand Design, by siding with those who have basically given up on a Theory of Everything and are settling for a piecemeal patchwork or mosaic of theories, each pertaining to distinct regions of creation while never being synthesized into one grand design. If God exists, the deity must be smiling. For behind the high fives and hoopla over the Higgs boson, there’s a growing doubt that we are anywhere near to understanding the nature of reality. These doubts arise from two major sources.

First, there’s broad agreement that science doesn’t comprehensively describe reality to begin with. Over a century ago the pioneers of quantum theory dismantled the common-sense notion that the world “out there” consists of hard, solid, tangible things. As one of the greatest of these pioneers, Werner Heisenberg, noted, “The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.” No one has ever refuted this claim, and when you add into the mixture the Uncertainty Principle, which says that quantum objects can be located only by the probability that they will appear at a certain place (only after it is observed does a particle actually settle into a measurable position), the solid, tangible world is radically undermined. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Would God Think of the God Particle? Part 1

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 10, 2013

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University

Deepak-chopraThe award of the Nobel Prize in physics generally creates a mental blur for most people, since no one can comprehend the current state of physics without training in advanced mathematics. This year was somewhat different, thanks to a nickname.

As the world learned on October 3, the British physicist Peter Higgs and the Belgian physicist Francois Englert shared the Nobel, as was widely expected in the profession. The award was given for a theory involving a missing particle in the so-called Standard Model of particle physics. The particle had come to be known as the Higgs boson when it was postulated or more popularly as “the God particle” from a 1993 book by Leon Lederman, another Nobel laureate who also served as the director of the prestigious Fermilab.

The discovery last year at CERN in Switzerland of the Higgs boson was a triumph for the Standard Model theory. Higgs and Englert, along with Robert Brout, Gerald Guralnik, C. R. Hagen, and Tom Kibble, had hypothesized the existence of a field filling the entire vacuum of space. If it hadn’t been dubbed the God particle, physicists wouldn’t be saddled with an embarrassing, catchy name. Meant initially as a joke, the enduring moniker suggests that in some way science has reached an ultimate destination. Creation has surrendered its final secret, even if there is no God. But in reality particle physics keeps moving forward, and after the celebration at finding a Higgs boson dies down, new frontiers will open up. Meanwhile, every physicist who is asked about the God particle takes pains to distance himself from the label, including Higgs himself.

Now that God has been invoked in the discussion, however, it’s worth asking if we are getting closer to understanding Him/Her/It in a way that matters beyond the arcane of quantum physics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Did God Discover the God Particle?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 30, 2012

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP, Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D., Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, and Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University

The possible discovery of the Higgs boson would not have been splashed across every major media if the tag “God particle” weren’t attached to it. Physicists hate the term, but they love the publicity. There are huge government grants at stake as well as the prestige of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. After you read the headline, however, there’s little doubt that a general reader cannot actually grasp what a Higgs boson is (or a large hadron accelerator, either).

If you watch enough PBS programs and listen to a few physicists, some clarity emerges that a non-physicist can understand. The Higgs boson discovery adds validation to a mathematical model of force fields in the universe. It attaches a real particle to an expectation, the expectation that buried inside force fields was the key to why subatomic particles have mass. Mass would be acquired as a particle meets with resistance when it moves through the vacuum of space, a kind of “molasses” that slows it down.

This molasses is very elusive. It took many billions of colliding protons in the huge CERN accelerator, backed up by 100,000 computers around the world, to analyze the data before the discovery seemed real. Even then, most physicists are guarded about whether this new particle actually is a Higgs boson. They are equally guarded about whether its properties will uphold the Standard Model of force fields or in fact create more problems. Read the rest of this entry »

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Knowing the mind of God: Seven theories of everything

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 25, 2012

This story has been edited to clarify that it discusses different approaches being taken to develop a theory of everything.

The “theory of everything” is one of the most cherished dreams of science. If it is ever discovered, it will describe the workings of the universe at the most fundamental level and thus encompass our entire understanding of nature. It would also answer such enduring puzzles as what dark matter is, the reason time flows in only one direction and how gravity works. Small wonder that Stephen Hawking famously said that such a theory would be “the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we should know the mind of God”.

But theologians needn’t lose too much sleep just yet. Despite decades of effort, progress has been slow. Many physicists have confined themselves to developing “quantum gravity” theories that attempt to reconcile quantum mechanics with general relativity – a prerequisite for a theory of everything. But rather than coming up with one or two rival theories whose merits can be judged against the evidence, there is a profusion of candidates that address different parts of the problem and precious few clues as to which (if any) might turn out to be correct. Read the rest of this entry »

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