Peter Higgs says, “It’s very nice to be right sometimes”
The British physicist whose theories led to the discovery of the Higgs boson has admitted he has “no idea” what practical applications it could have. Prof Peter Higgs said the so-called ‘God particle’, which is the building block of the universe, only has a lifespan of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second.
He refused to be drawn on whether the discovery proved there was no God, stating the name ‘God particle’ was a joke by another academic who originally called it the ‘goddamn particle’ because it was so hard to find…
Speaking at Edinburgh University, where he published his theory about the boson’s existence in 1964, he said: “It’s around for a very short time…”It’s probably about a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. I don’t know how you apply that to anything useful…
“It’s hard enough with particles which have longer life times for decay to make them useful. Some of the ones which have life times of only maybe a millionth of a second or so are used in medical applications…”
He said he had not originally thought the particle would be discovered in his lifetime and confirmed he has been contacted by Prof Stephen Hawking, who has lost a $100 bet with another academic that it did not exist.
Prof Higgs did not gloat but said in a typically modest manner: “It’s very nice to be right sometimes.” He said it was unusual that a particle bear a scientist’s name and suggested it be renamed simply ‘H’.
It emerged that celebrated the discovery with a can of London Pride ale but is now expected to receive a much more eminent reward, a Nobel prize for science…
Asked if he had ever had any doubts over the last 48 years, he said: “The existence of this particle is so crucial to understanding how the rest of the theory works that it was very hard for me to understand how it couldn’t be there.”
The popular press rarely comprehends what basic research in any science is about, how we as a species got to where we are, how the mechanisms and mechanics of all societies progressed from cave and forest to modern times.
Don’t worry, I won’t try to take the time right now to explain all that. Though, it’s simple and direct enough in my own consciousness after all the decades I’ve watched just the tiny bit of progress we’ve made in my lifetime.
I’ll stand at one side and applaud for a very long time.