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Physics crunch: Higgs smashes into a dead end

Physics crunch: Higgs smashes into a dead end

作者:瞿垣泖  时间:2019-03-13 07:06:03  人气:

By Matthew Chalmers (Image: Fermilab/SPL) Read more: “Crunch time for physics: What’s next?“ IT WAS February 1964. The Beatles were poised to take the US by storm, and potent stuff was coursing through the brain of theoretical physicist Murray Gell-Mann. What if the protons and neutrons that make up matter themselves consist of smaller stuff – “quarks”? The name came about simply because Gell-Mann liked the sound of the word, which he pronounced like quarts – of alcohol. The spelling was supplied by a passage from James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake relating to seagulls, sex and a publican. At the time, physics was badly in need of radical ideas. Dozens of exotic new particles were turning up with seemingly no rhyme or reason in cosmic rays. Gell-Mann’s invention allowed protons, neutrons and all these new upstarts to be portrayed as combinations of two or three of these more fundamental entities. The idea was too far out for most physicists. The new particles broke established rules by having fractional electrical charges of +2/3 or -1/3, and could also never be seen alone. Why should reality conform to such a whim? Why shouldn’t it? “Everybody says this and that is impossible, but perhaps there is no good reason – perhaps it’s just baloney,” says Gell-Mann, now at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. And so it proved. Quarks became a foundation of one of the best-tested theoretical models in all of science: the standard model of particle physics. In four decades,