Promoting Higgs Boson Discovery: Promoting the Higgs Boson was made public on July 4, 2012, marking an extraordinary event both physics and scientific communication-wise. Rarely before had such public involvement been witnessed with any issue related to fundamental physics.
Higgs boson known for being responsible for mass creation, has made headlines, best selling books, public lectures, TV interviews and feature-length films in recent years. While perhaps less well known ten years later than when first revealed publicly by scientists themselves, its appearance allowed communicators to paint an accurate portrait of scientific work being accomplished today.
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What scientist think about A Particle is Born: Higgs ?
“The Higgs boson is the cornerstone of particle physics,” wrote Caltech scientist Sean Carroll in his 2012 book The Particle at the End of the Universe. Additionally he has promoted this discovery through public lectures blog post and TV appearances. Carroll considers it a “watershed event” since it demonstrated physicists had an intimate understanding of fundamental laws governing our universe – an accomplishment which should not go unrecognized.
Strategies used to promote Higgs Boson
What strategies have scientists employed to spread awareness of the Higgs boson? Leon Lederman’s 1993 popular science book The God Particle was one such attempt; in it he described the Higgs as an essential yet elusive component in our understanding of matter’s composition.
According to Carroll, you cannot have a conversation about the Higgs without someone bringing up the God particle. He calls his book “spectacularly successful,” though many physicists dislike this association between science and religion. Yet despite all this work being done to repair damage caused by misinformation regarding the Higgs, Carroll believes there remains much work left for us to do.
David Miller of University College London’s cocktail party analogy was an early attempt to engage the public, earning him a bottle of champagne from UK science minister in 1993. Miller compared Higgs field – that energy that fills space and gives rise to the Higgs boson – with a boisterous party crowd.
A famous person attempts to enter the room, but is blocked by the mob. A particle can also be attracted into the Higgs field which slows it down and gives it mass. For example, the top quark is heavier than its up counterpart due to a stronger attraction from the Higgs than gravity alone.
These metaphors offer a fundamental comprehension of the physics behind the Higgs boson and its field. However, Mark Levinson (director of 2013 film Particle Fever) contends that a more human approach is needed in order to motivate people to invest time learning about the Higgs boson.
“To achieve maximum impact,” Levinson stresses the need for individualization if you want to reach a wider audience. In his award-winning movie, which played in cinemas worldwide and is available on Netflix, Levinson followed some theorists and experimentalists as they went about their daily tasks at CERN in Geneva – depicting the work that ultimately led to Higgs discovery. It’s fascinating to show why individuals are drawn to such abstract ideas, he observes.
The Higgs boson
Levinson had not intended to focus on filming the Higgs boson when he began his project in 2008, as physicists had warned him it might take too long before any significant discovery would be made. However, as encouraging developments from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) emerged, Levinson and his editor Walter Murch revised their plot lines so that the Higgs would take center stage.
Levinson notes that they even produced a visual with the Higgs at its centre, something which the physics community has come to accept. In the film, LHC researchers present their findings to an emotional crowd including Peter Higgs who first began working on his namesake particle with fellow theorists back in the 1960s. For Levinson, it’s truly beautiful that an 80-year old physicist wept when his life’s work was validated – testament to their success.
James Gillies, head of CERN’s communication section at the time of its discovery in 2012, estimates there to have been 12,000 news stories about it. He concurs with Levinson that due to all the human effort put into its discovery, explaining that fundamental science “is now at an exciting new phase in humanity’s journey.”
Gillies stresses the difficulty in gauging whether the Higgs boson phenomenon had any lasting impact on public understanding of fundamental science. While data regarding scientific progress after a major discovery are scarce, she believes there can be no doubt that terms like CERN, LHC and Higgs have become commonly used. “My experience has taught me that people are far more curious than we usually give credit for about basic research,” she added. “People want to understand more than we often give them credit for.”
Levinson agrees, noting that while some may not understand it fully, they were moved by the picture depicting scientists’ dedication. Although science can be complex, Levinson emphasizes how important the Higgs boson is for understanding how the universe functions – something more than simply understanding gravity’s role. “This project is really about our quest to comprehend how the universe functions,” he concludes.
Is public really interested in learning more about the Higgs boson?
Carroll believes the public is eager to learn more about the Higg boson. “We did take advantage of that enthusiasm to teach people a little bit of physics,” he acknowledges, admitting that science communicators could do better. On the other hand, Carroll utilized this finding to clarify some aspects of quantum field theory that underlies the Higgs boson prediction – we should use our great discoveries as opportunities to educate people about science’s methods and its findings.”