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Significance of the Higgs boson 'God particle' for believers

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 Contents - Nov 2012AD2000 November 2012 - Buy a copy now
All Saints Day: the 'Feast of the Unknown Saint' - Fr Munachi Ezeogu cssp
Pope's Lebanon visit sends a message of peace to Middle East - Michael Gilchrist
News: The Church Around the World
Some good 'family' news from Russia - Babette Francis
Ignite Conference unites young practising Catholics - Br Barry Coldrey
Shanghai's new auxiliary bishop: a prophet and a hero - Bernard Cervellera
Hong Kong's Catholic Bishop interviewed
Worldwide religious persecution continues - Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Significance of the Higgs boson 'God particle' for believers - David Forster
The new evangelisation: restore a sense of the sacred - Andrew Kania
Letters: Importance of marriage - Brendan Keogh
Letters: People of God - John Frey
Letters: Catholic quotations - Mike Lovett
Letters: Religious rebellion - Kevin McManus
Books: CATHOLICISM: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith, by Fr Robert Barron - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: A MIDLIFE JOURNEY, by Gerald O'Collins SJ - Frank Mobbs (reviewer)
Books: THE GIFT OF THE ROSARY: How to Make and How and Why to Pray, by Brian Peachey - Barry Morgan (reviewer)
Support: Fighting Fund
Books: Order books from www.freedompublishing.com.au
Reflection: Father forgive them ...: God's infinite mercy for the repentant - Anne Lastman

Recently the Higgs bosun, or so-called "God Particle", made front page news. It was variously described as "the glue for the whole universe", "the ultimate foundation of matter" and many other superlatives. However, it held centre stage for only a day or two as the scientists who discovered it distanced themselves from such exaggerations.

For them it was just another science experiment and, although delighted at the results, they knew it was a far cry from being "the Ultimate Cause" of the universe. In fact, the Higgs boson, rather than being a substitute for God, in fact leads us to Him.

Peter Higgs, after whom the particle (called a boson) was named, first came up with a theory in 1964 which posited that the whole universe is not just empty space with isolated stars revolving within it but that so-called space is actually filled with particles (bosons and others) so small that they can't be detected, but which are essential to the creation of solid matter and therefore to the formation of the universe as we know it.

When a particle collides with a boson it loses enough energy to slow down, gain more mass and thus comes closer to being "matter".

Perspective

To put this in in perspective we need to go back 120 years to when radio was just being developed. At that time, Marconi and others were pushing the boundaries, developing primitive wireless devices, which have led to the countless gadgets we take for granted today.

In 1900, to most people wireless technology was something out of this world, and so today, to understand this latest technological breakthrough, we need to start thinking outside the square, outside of our present understanding.

One hundred years ago it was radio, today it is the Higgs Field. In fact, we are already swamped with bosons but we just don't know they are there, any more than we notice the radio waves that constantly pass through us.

As we know, basically an atom is the smallest particle of any element, whether iron, aluminium or oxygen. If we attempt to split one of these atoms we don't get half an atom, but rather a big bang as the matter turns into energy.

That matter can change into energy and energy into matter can be difficult to grasp as we think of matter as solid and static and energy as dynamic and fleeting. In fact, this is what Einstein stated in his Theory of Relativity around 100 years ago and this has been the basis of much of our physics ever since.

One well known example of material changing into energy is the nuclear power station, where just a few tons of uranium (matter) can change into enough electricity (energy) to power a large city like Melbourne for a year.

Going further, scientists know that any atom consists of even smaller particles called protons and electrons and these are set up in a similar manner to our solar system with electrons orbiting around the proton (nucleus) like planets around the sun. Electrons are extremely small, being invisible even under the most powerful microscope. It has been said they are so small that they weigh no more than a thought. Yet the electron is not the smallest of the particles, by far. Others are so small they don't have any weight at all, just lots of energy.

This is where the Higgs boson comes in. When particles become so small, we have no means of detecting them and can only theorise that they exist, hence the excitement when, after 50 years of theorising, the scientists have carried out an experiment that shows they really do appear to exist.

So all the excitement arises from the fact that these scientists may be on the right track in explaining how the universe evolved. They are not saying it evolved without a Creator, but rather trying to explain the mechanism or process by which it evolved. They have theorised from the laws of physics and all the discovery of the Higgs boson does is to show that the laws of physics continue to apply.

But where did these unchanging laws come from? It's no big step to deduce that they had to come from a superior intelligence, a Creator. The alternative theory that they simply happened by chance is illogical and 'unscientific'.

Mysteries

It's these unchanging laws set up by God that enable science to develop at all. So when true science ultimately arrives at the end of the scientific road there, waiting, will be God. It has been said if you want to find an atheist don't go to the physics department, go to the theology department. The scientists keep running into God whichever way they turn.

The ironic thing is that as the scientists dig deeper and deeper into the mysteries of existence to find the answers, all they find are more mysteries. We are surrounded by them and are part of them. We might understand the workings of our body, but what about our soul? After all, what is a soul? Is it too just a breath of 'energy'?

When I think of the Son of God being truly and fully present in every tiny communion host, it doesn't sound so far fetched when scientists claim that, every day, billions of particles from outer space pass right through our planet, Earth, without even making contact with it, or us. How weird is that? As that wonderful hymn says, "Where the feeble senses fail ...".

David Forster practised for 20 years as a professional engineer and since then has been an active pro-life advocate.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 25 No 10 (November 2012), p. 12

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