Thursday, December 13, 2012

Colbert vs. Carroll

Sean Carroll has a new book out on the Higgs particle. I haven't read it, but I did catch his interview on the Colbert Report. Sean is a good writer, and the book has been well received, but Colbert had a couple of questions that stumped him.

The request for a twenty second explanation elicited the "Higgs is like molasses" explanation. Of course nobody yet has explained Higgsy in 20 seconds. It's pretty hard to explain to quantum field theory students in less than a week or two.

Even tougher was the question "What's it good for?" Aside from the amusement of the several thousand or so geeks in the world who actually do understand it.

When a British PM asked Faraday the same question about electromagnetism, he told the PM that he didn't know, but that someday it would be taxed. It's much harder to make that case for the Higgs. The technological implications, if any, are not even hinted at.

I suppose it's possible, though, that someday the Higgs will give us a quicker way to blow up the world.