My connection with the Higgs Boson (God Particle)
This historical photograph was taken at a meeting held in International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), Trieste, Italy (1987). It shows (from L-R): Prof. Lundquist of Sweden; Prof. Leon M. Lederman (Nobel Laureate) of USA, Author of Book entitled ‘God Particle’; Prof. Peter Higgs of UK, the discoverer of Higgs Boson (God particle); Prof. Herwig Schopper, Director CERN, Geneva, where this discovery has been made on 4th July 2012; Prof. Hardev Singh Virk, Director Research, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India, and Prof. Abdus Salam (Nobel Laureate) of Pakistan, the founder of the Standard Model.
God Particle (Higgs Boson): Implications for Science and Gurbani
Hardev Singh Virk
#360 Sector 71, SAS Nagar (Mohali)-160071, India
Introduction and Discovery
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) from 1998 to 2008, with the aim of allowing physicists to test the predictions of Standard Model, including Higgs boson. On 4th July 2012, the discovery of Higgs boson at CERN LHC was reported in the world media as the greatest discovery of 21st century!
The Higgs boson is named after Peter Higgs who, along with two other teams, proposed the Higgs mechanism that suggested such a particle in 1964 and was the only one to explicitly predict the massive particle and identify some of its theoretical properties.
The term God particle was coined by American experimental physicist and Physics Nobel Prize winner Leon Lederman in his popular science book on particle physics: The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? According to Higgs, it wasn't Lederman's choice to call it the god particle: "He wanted to refer to it as that 'goddamn particle' and his editor wouldn't let him." Higgs, an atheist himself, is displeased that the Higgs particle is nicknamed the "God particle", because the term "might offend people who are religious".
Why chase it? Simply put, it answers the question: How does nature decide whether or not to assign mass to particles? How did the idea of tracing the God particle originate?
Steven Weinberg and Abdus Salam were the first to apply the Higgs mechanism to the electroweak symmetry breaking. The electroweak theory predicts a neutral particle whose mass is not far from that of the W and Z bosons. They also proposed the Standard Model - a widely accepted framework believed to explain most of the world we see around us.
The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which we, and every visible thing in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them. All the matter that we can see, however, appears to be no more than about 4 percent of the total. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96 percent of the universe that remains obscure, in the form of dark matter and dark energy.
The discovery of Higgs boson will help us understand as to what happened just after the Big Bang, also known as creation of the Universe? Why did matter dominate over anti-matter, when, in laboratory settings, they are created in equal amounts? This is a fascinating world of speculation, hypothesis and theory lubricated mostly by intuitive imagination and higher mathematics and then confirmed by experiments. Further research and work will increase understanding not only about our minor planet earth in our vast galaxy but will also be another step to understand zillions of galaxies some millions of light years away and human matter and perhaps human mind itself .
There are enough strange, puzzling questions and even stranger possible answers to blow your mind! Does Higgs boson impact the current description we use for the universe? The Higgs boson will complete our description of the visible matter in the universe, and of the fundamental processes governing the Big Bang since it was a trillionth of a second old. The Higgs boson may have played a role in generating the matter in the universe, and may be linked to dark matter. It may even provide a clue how the universe inflated to its present size.
Has the discovery of Higgs boson been proved? Despite the strong evidence for its existence, the properties of the Higgs boson need to be explored and understood. As the particle is identified and studied more completely, the physics models will have to be updated. There will be a paradigm shift in our understanding of the universe.
Built in a tunnel 100 meters (325 feet) below ground at the CERN, straddling the French-Swiss border, the LHC, this technological marvel of a machine 27 kilometers in circumference, the world's biggest atom-smasher, has been designed to accelerate counter-rotating beams of protons to nearly the speed of light and then smash them together replicating conditions which prevailed in split-seconds after the "Big Bang" that created the universe 13.7 billion years ago.
Implications of God Particle for Science and Gurbani
Higgs mechanism is responsible for assigning mass to the elementary particles in Standard Model. According to theory, the Higgs field switched on a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang blasted the universe into existence. Before this moment, all of the particles in the cosmos weighed nothing at all and zipped around chaotically at the speed of light. When the Higgs field switched on, some particles began to feel a "drag" as they moved around, as though caught in cosmic glue. By clinging to the particles, the field gave them mass, making them move around more slowly. This was a crucial moment in the formation of the Universe, because it allowed particles to come together and form all the atoms and molecules around today.
If God particle is not there, the creation process will not advance further and there will be no life in the Universe. Big Bang created lot of energy but material particles are created by the intervention of Higgs field and Higgs boson. According to Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2, the energy and matter are equivalent and inter-convertible. How can we use this analogy in the field of Sikh religion?
It is clearly stated in Gurbani that God exists in both nirgun (transcendent) and sargun (immanent) states simultaneously. During pre-creation God is in nirgun state, aka sunnya state, which is devoid of matter but not of energy. Transcendence shows that God is prior to and distinct from the world. Immanence of God represents God's connection with the world. God himself transforms into creation, i.e., changing His nirgun form into sargun form:
Sargun nirgun nirankaar sunn samaadhee aap;
aapan kee-aa naankaa aapay hee fir jaap.
(Salok Sukhmani, M. 5)
The Formless is attributed and un-attributed;
And gone into absorption in the cosmic void.
Saith Nanak: He has made creation,
Himself on it meditates.
(SGGS, M. 5, P. 290)
The Sikh philosophy dialectically unites the ideas of God and the world. All existence is God’s visible form (sargun swarup) but He is not subject to three gunas of ignorance (tamas), passion (rajas), and reasoning intellect (sattva), as is all creation in the different stages of its evolution. Manifest in his creation, God can be known through His attributes.
The discovery of God particle can solve the riddle of creation of Universe after the Big Bang but it does not help us to understand what happened before it or at the point called ‘singularity’. The problem of ‘singularity’ faced by the Big-Bang model of the Universe is solved by Guru Nanak by bringing in God as the creator of the Universe. God particle has provided a beautiful analogy of transformation of nirgun (energy) state to sargun (matter) state of the Universe.
In Gurbani, God is also referred to exist in two phases: subtle (sukham) and solid (asthool). These phases are compatible with nirgun and sargun states of God. Guru Arjun illustrates this characteristic of God in his beautiful hymns recorded in Gurbani:
Naanak so sookham so-ee asthool.
O Nanak, He is the subtle, and He is also the manifest.
(SGGS, M. 5, P. 281)
rav riha sarbat thai sookhmo asthool.
He is the source of life. He is all-pervading, permeating all places;
He is in subtle essence and manifest form.
(SGGS, M. 5, P. 987)
The discovery of God particle is a step forward to unification of fundamental forces, which may lead to Theory of Everything (TOE). Elctro-weak unification has been established experimentally, which formed the basis of Standard Model. Physicists hope to achieve the objective of the unification of nuclear, electro-weak and gravitational forces into a single entity. In Gurbani, Ik Onkar represents the unity of God. Guru Nanak proclaims in Japu, God is self-existent and cannot be created as God particle has been created in the laboratory:
Thaapi-aa na jaa-ay keetaa na ho-ay;
aapay aap niranjan so-ay. (Japu, Pauri 5)
He cannot be established, He cannot be created.
He Himself is Immaculate and Pure.
(SGGS, Japu, P. 1)
However, Guru Nanak also claims that invisible, inaccessible and unfathomable God can be experienced face to face by searching in each and every heart, as He is omnipresent:
Ekam ekankar nirala, amar ajoni jaat na jaala;
Agam agochar roop na rekhia, khojat khojat ghat ghat dekhia.
The One Universal Creator is unique, immortal, unborn, beyond social class or involvement.
He is inaccessible and unfathomable, with no form or feature.
I have seen Him in each and every heart, after searching Him intensely.
(SGGS, M.1, P. 838)
Gurbani stresses the all-pervasive omnipresence of God in this Universe in the form of endless continuum of waves in the spiritual field, yet to be discovered by the scientific investigations:
Pasri-o aap ho-ay anat tarang;
lakhay na jaahi paarbarahm kay rang.
He Himself is All-pervading, in endless waves.
The playful sport of the Supreme Lord God cannot be known.
(SGGS, M.5, P. 275)
Gurbani elaborates the techniques of searching God in this Universe but the tools are not the same as used by the Scientists. The discovery of God particle has established the presence of Higgs field in the Cosmos. Let us hope to explore the spiritual field of God in the Universe following the technique of meditation (Naam Simran) advocated by the Sikh Gurus in the Gurbani.
1. LHC discovery, 4th July: a day to remember. CERN Courier, Volume 52, Number 7, September 2012.
2. Higgs Boson- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson.
3. Leon M. Lederman and Dick Teresi (1993). The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question? Houghton Mifflin Company.
4. Hardev Singh Virk, Concept of Reality in SGGS, Chapter 3, in: Scientific Vision in Sri Guru Granth Sahib & Interfaith Dialogue, Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 2008.
8. Personal correspondence with Bal Anand and K. Gajendra Singh (Former Indian Ambassadors), Mayur Vihar, New Delhi, is acknowledged.
Figure 1. The diagram shows the link between Higgs boson (H) and the basic constituents of matter in the Universe, namely leptons and quarks.
Editor’s Note: Prof. H.S. Virk, author of this Essay, started his doctoral research on Heavy Leptons in Marie Curie University, Paris in 1970. He carried out his experimental work at CERN, Geneva, where the discovery of God Particle has been made on 4th July. His thesis was awarded the highest citation “Tres (Most) Honorable” of Marie et Pierre Curie University, Paris in 1972.