I have been giving some thought to the implications of the likely “discovery” of the Higgs Boson particle that accounts for the Higgs field. I am sure you have read something about it by now, but if you haven’t, get caught up here.1 Professor Higgs, of the University of Edinburgh (score one more for the Celts), who was present at the announcement must also have been thinking about the implications. News stories spoke of his emotions as he wiped a tear from his eye and realized he had just become the most famous scientist on the planet. Everyone knows where the next Nobel prizes in physics will go but behind the scenes will be several large consortiums sharing the honour.
But what of the scientific and engineering implications of the Higgs Boson? No one can begin to guess where this might lead. But let us consider what we know about the Higgs Boson. We know it generates a field through which all other fundamental particles must pass. It is the “pea soup” of the universe through which we all swim. It gives us mass. But what if we could learn to counteract the Higgs field and reduce the mass of particles; and the sum of all these particles in bodies of mass like a car or plane? Vertical take-off and hovering action might be possible. Also, objects with reduced or no mass would require less force to accelerate (remember the old formula for acceleration: acceleration = force divided by mass; a = F/m). Thus, if you could clear out all of that problematic Higgs field in front of your direction of travel and thus make your car or plane virtually mass-less, a small amount of force would give greater acceleration. Objects with no mass travel at the speed of light, why not us? Would anyone like a 20 minute trip to Mars? How about an afternoon trip to the edge of the solar system? Don’t expect such inventions next week.
What of some of the other implications of the Higgs Boson? Discovering evidence for the Higgs field is one important piece of the argument that supports the Standard Model of physics. If we have Higgs Bosons, we have a Higgs field, and we have evidence that the super-symmetry string theories are pointing in the right direction. Tell the String Theory people to keep looking for all ten or eleven dimensions of String Theory. The mass of this fundamental particle, now estimated to be in the 125 GeV/c2 range, will also give physicists ideas about which of the theories is more likely to be accurate. Thus science can now focus experiments in areas that will be more fruitful.
What of philosophical implications. Again, it is too soon to guess but certainly one thing we are seeing is the triumph of both theoretical and experimental physics. It was predicted that the Higgs Boson existed and it has now likely been found. The math and theories are bearing out and are worthy of our continued study. We live in a complex, but non-chaotic, universe (or multiverse). Philosophy, science, and theology will react and will once again find a new equilibrium of interaction. I look forward to the implications for philosophy and theology. Much hard work lies ahead of us and we should get at it. I am sure the physicists are working hard right now.