OK I admit I picked this title to get your attention. But there is a bit of a parallel between the headlines of July 4 of the “discovery” of the Higgs boson, global warming, climate and environmental change and the way science works and how I hope how we learn. Indeed after the announcement of the discovery, Washington then had 4 100° days in a row and the temperature reached 105° July 7. A coincidence you say?? Of course
Peter Higgs is a theoretical physicist who with other scientists proposed a theory in 1964 for the existence of what would be known as the Higgs boson or Higgs particle. It was a mathematical fundamental concept or idea if you will. A theory. The theory of global warming is much older than Peter Higgs theory. A Swedish scientist Svante Arrheniis in the late 1800s examined the role that carbon dioxide plays in climate change (everyone agrees that the climate and earth’s temperature have always been changing) and his theory was that a doubling of CO2 would raise the earth’s temperature by about 10°. In the 1930s another pioneering scientist/engineer G.S. Callandar published a number of papers on the theory. All this well before Peter Higgs theory and the recent “discovery" of the Higgs Boson. What the heck is the connection? Well experimental physicists haven’t actually seen the Higgs particle. Just the footprint of the evidence of the particle. This is the graph from the huge Hadron atom smasher in Switzerland at CERN and the statement about the Higgs being found "We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV." No one had actually seen the Higgs particle but the little bump in the graph below is its "footprint" of where it should be, when atomic particles are accelerated to tremendous speeds and energy and crash into each other
That is how science works - from theory to observations and experiments. See any footprints of human influence on the night sky below?
How about our influence on land in this satellite image from 400 miles above us.
NASA MODIS image
See New York City, an urban footprint? Anthropogenic changes in land use? Even run off in the Hudson River after Tropical Storm Lee? Any footprints like the footprints of the discovery of the Higgs
Footprints similar to the footprints of the Higgs particle found by experiment? Scientists built tremendous atom smashers to test theory, perform atomic experiments and seek answers. But as scientist Ben Santer has pointed out, we don’t have 2 earths to preform experiments with.
The Higgs theory was a model of elementary particles, how mass forms from nothing. (Don’t ask me about the Higgs field it’s way beyond me). But if we can’t experiment on a “control” earth. But, we can model or simulate what will happen in the future. More and more the simulations are agreeing with the footprints and observations of global warming.
The chemistry of the air and water is changing. Sure there are many natural “drivers” of our climate, but we are also now a driver.
The chemistry of the air, oceans, even land is changing. We are now part of the experiment. What will the "discovery" be 40 years from now? As exciting as outcome of the experiment Dr. Higgs witnessed of his theoretical work? Dr. Higgs never thought he would live to see the day an experiment, observations and footprints would verify his theory, his mathematical model. What changes and experiments have we undertaken in the last 200 years with our environment and climate? What will our grandchildren live to see verified? A Higgs Boson . . .or something much bigger and maybe even more important?