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BBC Horizon


cakemaster5000
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Finally got around to watching BBC Horizon - The Nature Of Reality last night. It blew my freekin' mind! It's still available on the iplayer if you haven't seen it already. I watched in amazement at the complexity of the quantum world and the lengths the physicists go to to try to untangle these mysteries.

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Aye, it was an interesting program.

I don't go in for the holographic theory. I know that much of reality is non-intuitive (e.g. relativity, quantum theory) but the holographic principle just strikes me as too sci-fi.

I also don't go in for the many worlds theory's explanation of the two slits experiment. If you want to believe that the universe splits in two with a photon through slit A in one universe and the onanther through slit B in the other universe then fine, but once the universes have split they shouldn't be allowed to interfere with each other to produce the characteristic banded diffraction pattern.

I prefer the simpler (ha! Simpler?!) Copenhagen explanation. :)

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I watched this episode of Horizon via BBC iPlayer - Horizon: 2010-2011: What Is Reality? during lunchtime, thought it was very good however did feel it went off track a bit with regards to the 'holographic' theory. Having said this coming up with theories and proving or disproving them is what science is all about!

If, like me, you found this episode of Horizon a little confusing I understand the new BBC series 'Wonders Of The Universe' covers the theory of relativity, particle physics and quantum mechanics etc. and, if its anything like the book Why Does E=mc2?: Amazon.co.uk: Brian Cox, Jeff Forshaw: Books, should make all this science accessible to mere mortals such as myself!

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and, if its anything like the book Why Does E=mc2?: Amazon.co.uk: Brian Cox, Jeff Forshaw: Books, should make all this science accessible to mere mortals such as myself!

I've just finished that book - really good! :)

There was just one thing that confused me, though. It's fairly common knowledge even amongst non-physicists such as myself that the Higgs boson is the only particle predicted by the Standard Model that we haven't found yet. The LHC at CERN is powerful enough to make them, so if we see them, great, and if we don't, we disprove the standard model - which is also great from a physics point of view.

The problem is the book states that we've never seen a W boson either. Now I know that W bosons have lifespans in the order of 3 to the 10-25 seconds before decaying into other particles we have seen (like positrons, neutrinos etc.) but that doesn't prove the W boson ever really existed in the first place as a distinct particle itself.

So, what's so special about finding the Higgs boson? And why is the W boson so boring that we're happy to just assume that it exists? I accept that the Higgs field is interesting in that it returns mass to a universe of particles made massless by gauge symmetry, but I think the W boson is also pretty interesting otherwise stars wouldn't shine - and I like shiny stars! ;)

Can anyone help me with this?

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Now I know that W bosons have lifespans in the order of 3 to the 10-25 seconds before decaying into other particles we have seen (like positrons, neutrinos etc.) but that doesn't prove the W boson ever really existed in the first place as a distinct particle itself.

Indeed. But when you see enough events which match the prediction, and none that don't, you get increasingly confident that the W was there before decaying into the shower of particles you did observe.

Same logic applies to the Higgs. The LHC is probably making them but we need to observe a very large number of events before we can have any confidence that we are actually detecting what can only have come from the decay of a Higgs. There's no was we will ever be able to put one in a bottle bearing the label "Higgs Boson" and have it on the shelves of a museum for people to admire :)

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