Quantum physics

Higgs 8: Physics is worth a mass

People remember 1967 for different reasons.

It was the year of the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the military coup in Greece. It was the year when North Sea gas came ashore in Britain, when the Beatles issued Sergeant Pepper, and when Celtic won the European Cup. Nicole […]

Higgs 7: Three roads converge

By 1964 the challenge was clear. The familiar phenomena of electricity and magnetism looked as if they could be part of something even bigger. This ‘something’ was the electroweak interaction, with the electromagnetic field one of its aspects and the weak interaction another.

The reasoning came from symmetry. Looked at […]

Higgs 5: The strong dominate the field

By the mid-1960s, the situation in particle physics was not good. Its aim had been to uncover the basic building blocks of matter, and for a time the end seemed in sight. In 1917 Ernest Rutherford had split the atom and showed it consisted of an electrically positive nucleus […]

Higgs 4: Symmetry for the weak

The weak interactions are really weak compared to the strong ones. Indeed they are really weak compared to electromagnetism – about 100 billion times weaker. Yet there are also some similarities with electromagnetism. As far back as 1941 Julian Schwinger had felt that these similarities were significant, and took […]

Higgs 3: Symmetry for the strong

When the Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie died in 1899 he was a bitter and disappointed man. True, his mathematical ability had been recognised by some of the greatest people in the field, including the great German mathematician Felix Klein, and Lie had succeeded Klein in the chair of mathematics […]

Higgs 2: What makes light matter?

The big question is: what is the process that somehow freezes or condenses energy into particles of matter? In this process, the energy somehow acquires the characteristic of mass – for which we can go again to David Bohm: ‘Mass is a phenomenon of connecting light rays which go […]

Higgs 1: Frozen light

The discovery of the Higgs particle is one step further on a long road – the search for the nature of matter.

Our experience of matter starts in childhood, when we become familiar with objects and learn to live with them – how to pick them up when they’re useful […]