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The discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson in July was big news to physicists worldwide, but may be a little confusing for the general public. What is the big deal and why does it matter? Wichita State University physics professor Nick Solomey explains why the discovery is exciting even though most people may not understand what it means.
Announcer: In July, physicists were ecstatic in announcing preliminary results pointing to the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson. The non-scientist may have no idea what's so important about this elementary particle, but Wichita State University physics professor Nick Solomey is very excited about the discovery.
Solomey: "What excites me the most about the Higgs boson discovery is that we now know that there's a Higgs field that's present. And this Higgs field could be like the electromagnetic field, where we're actually able to manipulate it to have control over magnetic and electromagnetic interactions. Can we now have some control over the interaction of mass?"
Announcer: Solomey says it's okay that most people won't understand the significance of the Higgs boson. For example, Solomey says the average person carrying a cell phone with hundreds of thousands of transistors doesn't actually have to know how the transistor works to make use of it. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.
Sound bite #1
Solomey explains his connection to Higgs boson research many years ago. The sound bite is 24 seconds and the outcue is "in the 1980s."
Solomey: "My involvement with the Higgs boson studies and research at CERN goes back to when I was the graduate student of the man who was doing all of the research on how to develop the various detectors, and all these large detectors that you see at the CERN experiment are actually all based on his research that started back in the early '60s. And I only worked with him in the 1980s."
Sound bite #2
Solomey briefly explains how the Higgs boson works. The sound bite is 29 seconds and the outcue is "particle physics."
Solomey: "The Higgs boson will interact with this proposed Higgs field to give all these other particles that we see around us creating the normal matter and even some of the exotic matter produced at high energies its mass. And so, this interaction with the Higgs field with the particles that we see to produce the mass is the first indication of something major new beyond what used to be considered the standard model of particle physics."
Sound bite #3
Solomey says it's hard to predict the future significance of the Higgs boson discovery. The sound bite is 15 seconds and the outcue is "realize it existed."
Solomey: "The Higgs boson, now that it's discovered, shows that the Higgs field exists, but it's hard to predict the future. How are we going to be able to use it? There could be some amazing applications of it just like there was amazing applications of the electron, once we realized it existed."
Sound bite #4
Solomey says you don't have to know how things work to benefit from it. The sound bite is 36 seconds and the outcue is "that Higgs field."
Solomey: "So the Higgs boson with this Higgs field — it's going to be very complicated for a lot of people to understand. But imagine the world when quantum mechanics was just first discovered a hundred years ago. It eventually led to us making the transistor. And the transistor, although it relies on quantum mechanics, the average person carrying a cell phone with hundreds of thousands of transistors in it doesn't actually have to know how the transistor works to make use of it. And we can have some fantastic discoveries and applications of the Higgs boson and Higgs field once we understand how to manipulate that Higgs field."
Sound bite #5
Solomey says one of his concerns is the limited number of schools who teach quantum mechanics and electrical engineering at the chip level design. The sound bite is 31 seconds and the outcue is "these applications."
Solomey: "With the concept of the Higgs boson and new applications, let's go back and look at the schools that are teaching quantum mechanics and electrical engineering at the chip level design. Only a handful of schools around the United States have advanced programs that do this and they're all related in cities that have industries that really need these advanced educated people. And I'd like to see more people educated on advanced physics and advanced electrical engineering throughout these applications."
Sound bite #6
Solomey says the potential is great for students studying physics. The sound bite is 22 seconds and the outcue is "type of people."
Solomey: "Physics, the study of physics, or even if you're an engineer and you have a double degree in physics, there's a great potential for this field. It will give you an enhanced job. But it also, even if you're not going to study physics after you get a degree, but are going to study applied physics and applications of physics concepts, there's a huge demand in industry for these type of people."