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
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 back
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
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 a
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
In the 1960s the tide in physics flowed towards tackling the strong interactions, as those grappling with the weak interactions had come up against an apparently unshiftable block.The technique that seemed to be the most powerful one was the use of symmetry, and the use of Lie groups enabled a
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
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.