Dec 31, 2022

A Particle That May Fill ‘Empty’ Space

Posted by in categories: information science, particle physics

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek explores the secrets of the cosmos. Read previous columns here.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the discovery of the Higgs particle. Now we can see it in perspective.

To understand its significance, imagine an ocean planet where intelligent fish evolve and start to make theories of how things move. They do experiments and deduce equations but it is a messy hodgepodge, because the fish, taking their ever-present environment for granted, think of their ocean as “empty space.” After decades of work, though, some realize that by postulating that “empty space” is a medium—ocean—that has mass and motion of its own, you can account for everything using simple, elegant laws (namely, Newton’s laws). Next, the fish start to wonder what their hypothetical ocean is made of. They boil some ocean, do some sophisticated spectroscopy, and ultimately identify water molecules. Imagined beauty guided them to concrete truth.

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