Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Physicists Search for the G-d Particle

By Pallab Ghosh BBC News, science correspondent at Cern10 September 2008

Nestling in the foothills of the Alps, is Europe's largest laboratory, the European Centre for Nuclear Research; or Cern.

The scientists here have embarked on their biggest experiment ever, the hunt for a particle, which gave the universe its form.

Its scientific name is the Higgs Boson, but because it is so fundamental in shaping the universe, others have called it the G-d particle.

It is a particle that is supposed to endow other fundamental particles, with mass. Without it, there would be no gravity, no universe as we know it - no "let there be light" moment.

No-one has seen it, but physicists have invoked it, because it is the simplest explanation for how the universe evolved.
Spark of divinity
Most physicists are instinctively drawn towards theories, with a simple elegance.

Reverend Sir John Polkinghorne used to be a theoretical physicist, and worked with Professor Peter Higgs, after whom the G-d particle was named.

Professor Polkinghorne went on to become an Anglican priest. He believes, the equations which describe the way sub-atomic particles interact, contain a natural beauty, in which some find a spark of divinity.

He said: "Physicists are deeply impressed with the order of the world. It is rationally beautiful and structured; and the feeling that there is a mind behind it, is a very natural feeling to have."
It is not the first time, that a scientific study of the universe has, inspired awe and wonder.

The crew of Apollo 8 were so moved by their experience, they felt moved to read passages from the Book of Genesis, as they orbited the moon on Christmas Eve in 1968.

US physicists Richard Feynman and George Smoot, both described their Nobel Prize-winning insights into the behavior of subatomic particles, and the detection of the Cosmic Background Radiation, as looking "unto the face of G-d."
Professor Polkinghorne understands, why such glimpses into the underlying reality of the universe can provoke such reactions.

He said: "I think the feeling of wonder, which is very fundamental to the experience of physicists - the way they see structure in the world - is fundamentally a religious experience, whether people recognize it as such or not.