Higgs boson: The physics of mass, charge and media spin

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | July 16, 2012

Story image

The Higgs boson should not be called "the God particle," says Marc Merlin, director of Atlanta Science Tavern. "A better name for it might be 'the peace particle.' It's really a testament to international cooperation that transcends politics." Courtesy of CERN.

It’s too early to know for sure whether a newly discovered subatomic particle is the long sought-after Higgs boson, but one thing is clear: A lot of people outside of particle physics are interested.

CERN, a multinational research center in Geneva, generated worldwide buzz July 4 by announcing its Large Hadron Collider had produced data showing the existence of a “Higgs-like” particle.

“People are fascinated by the big questions of the universe,” says Marc Merlin, director of Atlanta Science Tavern, an informal group of science enthusiasts.

The Large Hadron Collider, a 38,000-ton underground device that accelerates and collides protons, is “like a time machine,” Merlin says. “Not only can it tell you the nature of the microscopic world now, it also reveals the universe as it was when it was just getting started,” a fraction of a second after the Big Bang.

Merlin graduated from Emory with a degree in physics. After going on to earn a masters in the subject at the University of Pennsylvania, he became a computer programmer, but remains passionate about physics.

Amid growing hints that CERN was closing in on the elusive particle, Merlin gave an Atlanta Science Tavern talk on the Higgs boson in May that filled a private room at Java Vino coffee shop. An encore of the talk was scheduled in June for a much larger room at Manuel’s Tavern, and the waiting list quickly grew to 140. That led to scheduling a third Higgs boson talk, for Saturday, July 21.

Full story at eScienceCommons >>