Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Quarks of Nature

I’ve been pondering violence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a violent person, nor do I advocate violence in any form. Recently I witnessed an act of violence in front of my eyes which had me contemplating many things, including, ‘Does any good come from violence?’
On a late Saturday night I watched from my window as a young guy, about 18 or 19 years old, stood in the road and punched two women in the face, one after the other, with such force that each fell backwards onto the tarmac. Their heads literally bounced up and down like footballs. In triumph, he spinned around on his feet, beat his drunken chest, and shouted, ‘Who’s the man now?’

These two women had just set upon him, slapping him in the face and punching his chest. The three exchanged insulted about some upset from earlier in the evening. They were part of a larger group that had just left the nightclub around the corner, and were heading home on foot through the town centre. Granted, the guy held back for a while before launching his counter offensive against them, but not for very long.

Thankfully, the only time I am exposed to this kind of violence is usually while at the cinema or watching some TV movie.
As all three revellers were drunk, it was obvious none had control of their actions. After the triple punch-up, the guy walked off shouting and swinging his arms in the air, while the two women got up from the road and tottered off in their platform heels, as if barely touched. All this was watched by passersby on the street who did nothing but carry on passing by! There was nothing for me to do but calm myself after watching this shocking reality fade into the day-light like a bad dream.

To answer the question of ‘Does any good come from violence?’ Let’s talk about Theoretical Elemental Particle Physics for a moment.
A strange synchronicity hit me recently when I joined the girls at my local craft meeting and chatted about all sorts of gentler topics. I spent a few minutes choosing my tools and beads. I pondered the attraction that these little baubles have and the strange coincidence of the evening.

Small, shinning, coloured crystals, painted glass, and plastic, polished stones, and shells, perfectly formed spheres of wonder and delight.
As it turns out, the lady of the beads, our mentor in jewellery making and precious stones dealer has a daughter who dabbles in spheres of a different kind. As a particle physicist working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), near Switzerland, she spends her time throwing together exotic beads at the atomic level.

I was prompted to read up on the latest research into the ‘Higgs-Boson’, aka God Particle, which has been in the news lately due to the particle theorist behind it, Peter Higgs, winning the Nobel Prize for physics this year.

The search for the elusive Higgs-Boson (theorised in 1964) is sometimes referred to as the Quest for the Holy Grail of Physics. Coincidently (there’s that word again) the Higgs-Boson and the Grail share more than a label and an idea. They are far more intertwined.
To brush up on my knowledge I also read Giles Morgan’s ‘A Brief History of The Holy Grail’, (A very uncomplicated book about the history, myth, and religion associated with the Grail legend).

I attempted to understand just what the Higgs-Boson is too, and found it surprisingly straight-forward. Please see nifty little diagram below.
All matter is made up of Atoms, tiny basic elements, naked to the human eye. They are made up of three particles: Photons, Neutrons and Electrons. Photons and Neutrons are held in the centre of the Atom, in its core ‘Nucleus’, whilst the lighter Electron hangs out in a sort of cloud space inside the Atom.

Very much like those Russian dolls ‘Matryoshka’ that fit into each other, each particle has been theorised and then discovered within the previous particle. Therefore, within Photons and Neutrons there are three other tiny things called Quarks (among other stuff) and these then make up Hadrons. Within these Hadrons reside Bosons. When particles are violently thrown at each other they smash up and then the Higgs-Boson can be seen within, “Viola!” The tiniest of tiny!
The above explanation is simplistic of course, but I think it’s about right. If someone else can clarify, please let me know. I will review and correct later.

So there is some good coming out of violent acts. They release energy which in turn explains something of the unknown nature of the universe.

Coming up next time, the connection with The Holy Grail revealed.

Atomic beads of wonder