Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

The God Particle discovered?    (7/8/2018 1)

Call me a nerd, but I must confess to having a great deal of affection for fundamental particles—electrons, protons, neutrons and their newer cousin: quarks.

Studying ‘A’-Level Physics at school, I was stunned by the amazing beauty and subtle complexity of the microscopic world of the atom. Surely here was evidence of a creative mind, a divine intelligence, at work...  And so began my personal journey to faith, and a life-changing encounter with the Creator himself.

As you might know, since I studied physics, scientists in their search for the Theory of Everything, and the basic building blocks of matter, have been discovering more and more 'fundamental' particles. In fact, over a hundred of them to date!

It is generally agreed that the good old simple protons and neutrons of my school days are made up of even more elementary particles known as 'quarks' (which have lovely descriptions such as 'charm', 'strange', 'bottom' and 'top'). These are known collectively as 'hadrons'.

To make some sense of all this,  physicists have developed the so-called ‘standard model’  of fundamental particles and their interactions, and  have classified them into the 16 particle types that make up all matter. But the sums don’t quite add up for the standard model to be true if these particles are considered alone. If only 16 particles existed, they would have no mass (don't ask why...)—contradicting what we know to be true in nature.

Another particle has to give them this mass. Enter the ‘Higgs boson’, first proposed by University of Edinburgh physicist Peter Higgs and colleagues in the late 1960s. Their theory was that all particles acquire their mass through interactions with an all-pervading field, called the Higgs field, which is carried by the Higgs 'boson'.  The Higgs is so fundamentally important to the standard model that some people have dubbed it the ‘God particle’.

In 2012 scientists became very excited after analysing the huge mass of collected data from the €8billion Large Hadron Collider after it had ramped up to its maximum energy.  Most are convinced that the latest results provide strong evidence of  the previously elusive God particle but, as ever, there is more work to be done. And indeed in June 2018 as I write, another round of updates is being undertaken to upgrade the performance of the LHC even further.

As for me, whether they have indeed found the God particle or not, I will never cease to be amazed at the wonderful works of the designer, the Creator of the tiniest fundamental particle, and the vastness of the entire cosmos.

I can sing with the Psalmist (Psalm 19):

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

And if the writer of the psalm had lived in our century, he might have added:

Mysterious hadrons bring praise and honour
revealing his incomparable craftsmanship                

But you don’t need to be  geek to see the wonder of God’s glory  in what he has created!

Pray:  Creator God, help me to see your glory in your amazing creation every day – in the mighty cosmos and in the tiniest particle that can be detected. Amen.

Think about: Why do you think so many people assume science and faith are incompatible?

Challenges: Watch the video 'How Great Thou Art' and/or read the book Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship by John Polkinghorne.

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