‘Black Holes, the Hadron Collider and the God Particle’

We got a massive turnout on Monday evening for a public lecture I gave on the Large Hadron Collider at Trinity College Dublin. I was invited to give the talk by Astronomy Ireland and it was a great time to give it as there is still plenty of interest in the Collider because of the black hole ‘controversy’, and because last week saw the first offical conference on results from the LHC. Indeed, there has been very little media attention given to the fact that, in the space of a few months,  all four detectors at the LHC have been busily rediscovering the elementary particles of the Standard Model that took so many years to first detect, from pions, muons and kaons right up to W and Z bosons.

A lot of physicists might have a problem with the populist title ‘Black holes, the Hadron Collider and the God particle’; however the title was worked out with Astronomy Ireland, an organisation that knows a thing or two about attracting a wide audience! Also, I think controversies such as the black hole controversy are best tackled head on i.e. by describing early on in the talk what a black hole is and why one doesn’t expect to create one at the LHC  (in particle physics, one gets only a minute amount of mass  from a very large amount of energy since  m = E/c2 ). I also touched on micro-black holes and Hawking radiation; overall I had the distinct feeling the audience enjoyed this part of the talk no end!

As for the term ‘God particle’, I happen to be one of the few physicists who likes this name for the Higgs boson. Yes, it was probably originally ‘that goddamn particle’ due to its elusiveness,  but I think ‘God particle’ neatly gets across the importance of the particle; after all it is the interaction of the other particles with the Higgs field that is thought to determine their mass, according to the Standard Model.

I divided the talk into three parts; first, an overview of the LHC – how, what, why etc. Then I devoted the central part to a brief history of particle physics, from the discovery of the nucleus to protons and neutrons, from the hypothesis of quarks to the electroweak interaction and the Standard Model. In the third part, I described extensions to the SM such as supersymmetry and Grand Unified Theory and went over our expectations of the LHC experiments, from the possible detection of the Higgs boson to supersymmetric particles, from candidates for dark matter to the search for assymetries in matter/antimatter decay at LHCb.

The LHCb experiment is of particular interest to an Irish audience, as a group at University College Dublin are heavily involved, despite Ireland’s non-membership of CERN.

Finally, I can never resist showing a couple of slides on the basics; not only do experiments at accelerators give us information on the elemental structre of matter and the interaction of the fundamental forces, they also give us supporting evidence for our underlying theories of modern physics, from the observed mass-increase of particles (predicted by special relativity) to the detection of antiparticles (predicted by quantum theory). You can see the full set of slides for the talk here and a video is available here.

All in all, there was a great atmosphere at the talk and I really enjoyed the occasion. There were plenty of questions afterwards, from queries on black holes to the prospect of detecting extra dimensions. I was also asked about a recent study of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) that may cast doubt on the hypothesis of dark matter (based on a revision of measurements of perturbations in the  CMB). I haven’t studied this report yet, but I gave the answer that I always give in public fora: let’s see if other groups replicate the findings before pay too much attention. After all, the postulate of dark matter comes not primarily from measurements of the CMB, but from thousands of measurements of the movement of stars, galaxies, galaxy-clusters and halos. That said, it’s certainly an interesting paper…


I really enjoy giving such talks on particle physics, there are so many fascinating subjects to cover; special relativity, quantum theory, quarks, the fundamental interactions, symmetry breaking, antimatter, dark matter etc. Yet while there are quite a few excellent books for the public on cosmology, there are remarkably few on particles physics… might be fun to try to put one together one day.

Update II

Apparently, U.S. newspapers are full of stories on the discovery of the God particle at the Tevatron. It seems these stories are based on an unpublished paper (see discussion on Not Even Wrong) – I wouldn’t pay too much attention just yet.


Filed under Particle physics, Public lectures

13 responses to “‘Black Holes, the Hadron Collider and the God Particle’

  1. John

    Dr O’Raifeartaigh,
    Did anyone video the talk? If they did, or if you know of a link to a youtube video of the talk, that would be really great. I have not heard about any results yet coming out of the LHC since the “First Physics” Event a few months back.


  2. Martin Walshe

    Good read Cormac.

    Think you have the title of your dream book in the subject of this post ;)

  3. cormac

    John: the video is available on the AI website at http://www.astronomy.ie/lecture201006.php

    A great way of keeping up with the LHC results is to keep an eye on the particle physics blogs on the interactions.org website, at http://www.interactions.org/cms/?pid=1025915

    • John

      Thanks for the link Dr O’Raifeartaigh.
      Your man from astronomy Ireland is selling the talk as a DVD video. It would cost him nothing to upload it to Youtube where it would get a large audience of interested people. But i heard that about him before, he does nothing for free and gives no help to the amateur astronomy clubs around the country who look for help with stuff.

      Thanks, i will watch the interaction.org website for news!

  4. cormac

    Martin: thanks !
    Actually, I was thinking of ‘The Story of Atoms’

  5. Miriam Barry

    Don’t suppose that you’ve a special discounted price on the video for fellow Glenwalk members?

  6. cormac

    Hi Miriam! I’m afraid the videos are not mine to give as they are the property of Astronomy Ireland. Anway, I look like a dork – the slides are more useful!

  7. cormac

    John: that’s not a bad idea! I’ll talk to dvid, see if I can persuade him to put a segment on Youtube..

  8. Anirudh K. Satsangi

    It has been stated in Bible (John I-1) “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,”
    The Radhasoami Religion also tells that, the ‘Word’ mentioned above is in fact Current of Sound or Current of Consciousness or Prime Current of Spirituality which was issued forth from its Source, or Creator or God. This Current has later on produced light and other forces. The scientists are discussing these days about dark energy which constitute about 96% of the entire universe which is not known to us. Only 4% part of the universe is known to us by all scientific means. In fact this 96% invisible portion of the universe is the vast expanse of spirituality which can be designated as field of gravitational waves in scientific terms. Visible portion of the universe (4%) consists of consciousness (gravitational force), mental force (electromagnetic waves) and material force (strong and weak nuclear force).
    Body = Nuclear Force (weak as well as strong)
    Mind = Electromagnetic Force.
    Consciousness = Gravitation Force.
    According to Radhasoami Religion the whole Universe can be sub-divided into three grand divisions viz.
    1. Region of Pure Spirituality
    2. Region of Subtle Maya
    3. Region of Gross Maya
    Nuclear forces dominate Region of Gross Maya (Gross Material Region), Electro-magnetic forces dominate Region of Subtle Maya (Subtle Material Region) and Gravitational Force dominates Pure Spiritual Region.
    This is the only Truth which can be verified scientifically and can be termed as ‘higher theory for everything’. This also supports the statement of Sir Sahabji Maharaj the goal of science – Truth; the goal of philosophy – Ultimate Reality; and the goal of religion – God are the three names of same supreme essence.
    1. Many things are common between Current of Consciousness and Gravitational Wave.
    1. Current of consciousness can not be seen by any means and gravitational wave can also not be seen.
    2. Current of consciousness is the weakest force on earth. Its strength goes on increasing on higher regions. Gravitational force is also very weak on earth and strong on Sun and even more stronger on black holes.
    3 Tendency of both current of consciousness and gravitational waves are towards their source or centre.
    4. Current of consciousness and gravitational force are both regarded as the creater of all the celestial and terrestrial bodies of the whole universe. They are also sustainer of these and when they turn back towards their source or centre the whole universe will collapse.
    Hence it can be assumed that the source of current of consciousness and gravitational wave is the same i.e. God or ultimate creator.
    This theory is based on scientific deduction. All other theories appear to be work of imaginative thinking and sometimes do not satisfy the criteria of scientific verification. In scientific terms it can be said that the ‘gravitons’ are the elementary
    particle which was issued forth in the beginning of the creation accompanying with sound ‘Radha’

  9. socratus

    ENTROPY. Gravity. Star formation. / My opinion /.
    Henry Poincare named the conception of “entropy ”
    as a ” surprising abstract “.
    Lev Landau (Dau) wrote:
    ” A question about the physical basis of the
    entropy monotonous increasing law remains open “.
    The famous mathematician John von Neumann said to
    “the father of information theory” Claude Shannon:
    ” Name it “entropy” then in discussions
    you will receive solid advantage, because
    nobody knows, what “entropy” basically is “.
    Between 1850 – 1865 Rudolf Clausius published a paper
    in which he called ” The energy conservation law” as
    ” The first law of thermodynamics”. But in our nature the
    heat always flows from the higher temperature to the
    lower one and never back. In our everyday life we don’t see
    the heat itself rises from cold to hot. So, it seemed that
    in thermodynamics ” The energy conservation law”
    wasn’t kept, this law was broken. But Clausius had another
    opinion. He thought: I know people believe that this process is
    irreversible, but I am sure that ” The energy conservation law”
    is universal law and it must be correct also for thermodynamic
    process. So, how can I save this law ?
    Probably, in the thermodynamic process there is something
    that we don’t know. Maybe, there is some degradation
    of the total energy in the system which never disappears .
    Perhaps, there is some non-useful heat, some unseen process ,
    some unknown dark energy , some another form of potential
    energy/heat itself which can transform heat from the cold
    body to the warm one. I will call this conception as ” entropy”
    and it will mean that changes of entropy (dS) can be calculated
    for reversible process and may be defined as the ratio of the
    quantity of energy taken up (dQ) to the thermodynamic
    temperature (T), i.e. dS= dQ /T.
    And because I don’t know how this process goes I won’t call
    it as a law but as ” The second principle of thermodynamics ”
    which says that ” the entropy of an isolated system always
    increases “. Another version: ” No process is possible
    in which the only result is the transfer of heat from a hotter
    to a colder body. It is possible some reversible process which
    is unknown now .”
    Between 1870 – 1880 Ludwig Boltzmann said:
    ” Clausius is right. But I can add more to his entropy conception.
    According to Classic physics when an isolated thermodynamic
    system comes to a thermal equilibrium all particles stop their
    moving. From one hand it is correct. But the system cannot be
    at thermal equilibrium (in the state of thermo death) all the time.
    The situation in the system must change.
    Therefore I say that at the thermal equilibrium the entropy
    (some unknown dark/potential energy ) of the system will
    reach maximum and as a result , the thermal equilibrium
    of the system will change.
    I don’t know how exactly the thermal equilibrium of the system
    changes. But I can give probabilistic / statistical interpretation
    of this changing process. I can write ” The second principle of
    thermodynamics” by a formula: S= k log W and this formula
    says:” the entropy ( heat) of the system is the collective result of
    mechanical motion and friction of all the particles (k).”
    I will call it as ” The second law of Thermodynamics.”
    In 1900 Max Planck said:
    Clausius and Boltzmann are both right.
    But all my life I worked almost exclusively on problems
    related to thermodynamics. And I am sure that the ” The second
    law of Thermodynamics” , concerning entropy, is deeper and it
    says more than is generally accepted. I am sure the Boltzmann’s
    probabilistic /statistical version of “The second law of
    Thermodynamics ” is not completed, is not final.
    Please, look at the graph of the radiation curves of the ” black body”.
    They are very similar to those curves which are calculated
    by Maxwell for the velocity (i.e. energy) distribution of gas
    molecules in a closed container. Could this black body radiation
    problem be studied in the same way as Maxwell’s ideal gas….
    …electromagnetic waves ? This problem of connection between
    radiation of black body and Maxwell’s Electrodynamics theory
    doesn’t give me peace. Maxwell’s theory can tell everything
    about the emission, absorption and propagation of the radiation,
    but nothing about the energy distribution at thermal
    equilibrium. What to do? How to be ?
    After trying every possible approach using traditional
    classical applications of the laws of thermodynamics
    I was desperated. And I was forced to consider that the
    relation between entropy, Boltzmann’s probability version
    and Maxwell’s theory is possible to solve by suggestion ,
    that energy is radiated and absorbed with discrete
    individual quanta particle (E= hv). So, now I must write
    ” The second law of Thermodynamics ” by formula:
    hv = k log W.
    But if I look to the Clausius inequality I see that entropy
    is energy divided per temperature.
    So the formula hv = klogW is hv = kT logW I think.

    I was so surprised and sceptical of such interpretation the
    entropy that I spent years trying to explain this result
    in another , less revolutionary way. It was difficult for me
    to accept this formula and to understand it essence .
    It was hard for me to believe in my own discovery.
    My conclusion.
    How to understand this formula?
    Which process does formula (hv = kT logW ) describe ?
    In 1877 Boltzmann suggested that the energy/mass state
    of a physical system (of ideal gas ) could be discreted.
    This idea was written with formula: R/N=k. It means:
    there are particles with energy/mass state (k) in physical
    system of ideal gas . They dont move, they are in the
    state of rest.
    In 1900 Planck followed Boltzmann’s method of dividing.
    Planck suggested that energy was radiated and absorbed
    with discrete “energy elements” – ” quantum of energy”-
    – ” Planck’s action constant”- (h) . This fact means:
    electron produces heat, setting in mechanical motion and
    friction all particles. This fact is described with Planck’s
    formula: hv = kTlogW.
    In which reference frame does this process take place?
    In thermodynamical reference frame of ideal gas and
    black body (M. Laue called this model as Kirchhoff,s vacuum).
    Now it is considered that these models are abstract ones which
    do not exist in nature. On my opinion these models explain
    the situation in the real Vacuum (T=0K) very well.
    For my opinion the formula (hv = kT logW ) says:
    The reason of ” entropy” , the source of thermal equilibrium’s
    fluctuation , the source of Vacuum fluctuation is an action of
    the particle /electron, which has energy: E = hv (hf).
    The process of Vacuum fluctuation depends on collective
    motions of all particles (k) and will be successful if enough
    statistical quantity of Boltzmann’s particles ( kT logW)
    surround the electron.
    Which process does the formula (hv = kT logW ) say about ?
    This formula describes the possibility of realization of
    macro state from micro state. This formula explains
    the beginning conditions of gravitation,
    the beginning conditions of star formation.
    hv = kT logW.
    hv > kT logW.
    hv He II –> He I –>
    ( P. Kapitza , L. Landau , E.L. Andronikashvili theories).
    (Superconductivity, superfluidity.)
    Plasma reaction… –>
    Thermonuclear reactions …–>……etc.

    Thanks to Entropy the homogeneous Vacuum is broken.
    Thanks to Entropy the micro process changes into
    macro process.
    Thanks to Entropy the stars formation takes place.
    Thanks to Entropy ” the ultraviolet catastrophe” is absent.
    Thanks to Entropy our Milky Way doesn’t change into radiation.
    Thanks to Entropy the process of creating elements takes place.
    Thanks to Entropy the process of evolution is going.
    One physicist said :” The entropy is only a shadow of energy“.
    Maybe now somebody can understand why entropy is a shadow.
    And maybe now somebody will understand why
    ” The Law of conservation and transformation of energy”
    is also correct for thermodynamic system.
    Why is ” The second law of Thermodynamics”
    so universal? Because it is based on
    ” The Law of conservation and transformation of energy”
    And this law is not the simple accounting solution of debit and credit.
    The sense of this law is dipper and it says more than is usually accepted.
    It took me about three months to write this brief article.
    Plus about three years searching for the key of entropy problem.
    Plus about twenty-three years trying to understand the essence
    of physical laws and formulas.
    Best wishes.
    Israel Sadovnik. Socratus.

  10. I am not a scientest, but the title of this post drew me to this page in a Google Search.
    I always wondered if there were some particle that brings order to chaos. But if so, then why would God hide from us ? Or why would he want to be worshiped, and send us to hell if we don’t. If I were God, and could make the entire universe, why would I care if some mammals who have never seen me believe in me, or not.

  11. thanx for excellent content!

  12. Anirudh Kumar Satsangi

    What do you think about my following views?

    Radhasoami Faith View of Modus Operandi of Creation of Universe

    Part – I

    There is cosmological evidence for God and the Universe existed before
    Big Bang .
    Stephen Hawking writes in The Grand Design, “It is not necessary to
    invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.”
    Hawking said the Big Bang was merely the consequence of the law of
    gravity. In A Brief History of Time, Hawking had suggested that the
    idea of God or a divine being was not necessarily incompatible with a
    scientific understanding of the Universe.
    Although Hawking is very close to Truth yet he is not perfect in his
    views while discarding the role of divine being. I consider the role
    of eternal gravity uppermost but I strongly differ with Hawking on the
    role of divine being. I consider Divine Ordainment is the cause of
    Creation of Universe.
    Now I give Radhasoami Faith view of Creation Theory. In Sar Bachan
    (Poetry) composed by His Holiness Soamiji Maharaj the August Founder
    of Radhasoami Faith the details of creation and dissolution has been
    described very scientifically. It is written in Jeth Mahina (name of
    Hindi moth) in this Holy Book: Only He Himself (Supreme Father)and
    none else was there. There issued forth a great current of
    spirituality, love and grace (In scientific terminology we may call
    this current as gravitational wave). This is called His Mauj (Divine
    Ordainment). This was the first manifestation of Supreme Being. This
    Divine Ordainment brought into being three regions, viz., Agam, Alakh,
    and Satnam of eternal bliss. Then a current emerged with a powerful
    sound (this was the first Big Bang). It brought forth the creation of
    seven Surats or currents of various shades and colours (in scientific
    terminology we may call it electromagnetic waves). Here the true Jaman
    or coagulant was given (in scientific terminology this coagulant may
    be called as weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force). Surats,
    among themselves, brought the creation into being.
    These currents descended down further and brought the whole
    universe/multi verse into being i.e. black holes, galaxies etc. were
    I would like to add further that sound energy and gravitational force
    current are non polar entity and electromagnetic force is bi-polar.
    Hence spiritual polarization, if occurred, is occurred in the region
    of Sat Lok and region below to it only.
    Infinite expanse of gravitational force field is the region of dark energy.

    In Bible it is written that in the beginning was the Word; the Word
    was with God; and the Word was God.
    According to Radhasoami Faith “Shabd (Word) is the beginning and end
    of all. The three loks (worlds) and the fourth Lok, all have been
    created by Shabd.” (Sar Bachan Poetry)


    Here the true Jaman (coagulant) was given. The spirituality coagulated
    as it were, and Surats (spirit entities), among themselves, brought
    the creation into being. Thereafter, another Jaman (coagulant) was
    given. Regions from Agam Lok (Inaccessible Region) to Sat Lok (True
    Region) were created during the first creational process. That
    creation is true. That region is eternal. There is no trace of evil
    and suffering. This was the creation for many Yugas and ages. Then
    there appeared a dark coloured current
    That current appeared like a dark coloured stone set in a white one
    and was absorbed in the Darshan of True Being. Then there appeared two
    Kalas i.e. currents (viz. Niranjan and Jyoti) and they together
    evolved the creation of five Tattwas (elements) four Khans (species,
    categories of life) and three Gunas (qualities). The three Gunas
    (qualities) brought about the expansion and proliferation . They
    created Rishis and Munis (sages and holy men), gods and godly human
    beings and demons. Egotism then increased much. Niranjan separated
    himself from the rest, putting the burden of looking after the
    creation on them. Nobody could know of Niranjan. Even the Vedas
    referred to Him as Neti Neti (Not this, Not this). They did not get
    Darshan (Vision) of Niranjan. They made conjectures. Then how can
    anybody have knowledge of Sat Purush (True Being), Source of Niranjan
    and all that exists.
    Scientifically here Jyoti represent three Fundamental Forces of
    Quantum Mechanics i.e. electromagnetic force, weak nuclear force and
    strong nuclear force. NIRANJAN is the fourth Fundamental Force i.e.
    Gravitation Force. Scientific explanation follows in support of my


    Einstein struggled and failed to formulate this theory, but it has
    already been shown that at high enough energies electromagnetism and
    the weak force are the same force known as the electroweak force. It
    is theorized that if energies are increased even further and neutrinos
    acquire mass, which has now been fully documented, all the known
    forces will reduce to the same force thus providing the basis for the
    Grand Unified Theory. This high energy level existed only during the
    very early expansion of the Universe known as the Planck Epoch which
    existed up to 10 to the negative 43rd seconds after the Big Bang where
    the four fundamental forces – electromagnetism, weak nuclear force,
    strong nuclear force and gravitation – all had the same strength.
    After that point the energy level decreased and gravity separated from
    the other 3 fundamental forces and with condensation of elementary
    particles (quarks, leptons, and gauge bosons) into matter formed the
    so-called Standard Model of today’s Universe. (Source: Comments by
    William H. Depperman posted at blog http://factoidz.com/scientific…

    It is well known that nothing or very little is known about
    gravitational force till today. It is a mysterious force.