Metin Arık and Erkcan Özcan are scientists who represent Turkey at CERN. They are also proffesors at Boğaziçi University. Their particular area of interest are ATLAS and CAST experiments. Erkcan Özcan is the head of ATLAS experiment. Metin Arık has his Bachelor of Science from Istanbul University and his Ph.D. From University of Pittsburgh, while Erkcan Özcan has his Bachelor of Science from Middle East Technical Unviersity and his Ph.D. from Stanford University.
1. Does the Higgs particle prove that anything can happen at any moment? What are the similarities between this theory with Schrodinger’s Cat theory? (Melisa R.)
Erkcan Özcan: Maybe we should rephrase the questions because the fact that we have found a new particle that is consisted of Higgs bozone does not imply anything about everything is possible or anything like that. There is not a thing in particular called Schrodinger’s theory or Schrodinger’s theorem. There is the theory of quantum mechanics.
First of all Schrodinger’s cat, is not a real cat. It is something that is thought actually. Of course it has to do with quantum mechanics. And that in quantum mechanics there is an uncertainty principle. Of course the Higgs bozone’s machine works with the uncertainty principle and with the quantum mechanics. But that does not mean that there is an uncertainty about the existence of the Higgs bozone. So, the prediction of Higgs bozone was based on the theory of quantum field theory. It is the theory that unites special theory of relativity and quantum physics. So, this is the theoretical framework, which said that there should be a Higgs particule. So, Higgs particule proves that quantum mechanics is correct. But the uncertainty of the quantum mechanics is something else. It doesn’t mean that anything can happen. Actually, it means that certain things must happen. You see we don’t understand the fact that quantum mechanics actually proves Newtonian physics. In daily life human life is governed by Newtonian physics and quantum mechanics proves that Newtonian physics is correct. This is a complicated theoretical process that where in microscopic field you have a quantum mechanics valid and that makes actually in the human sense that Newtonian physics is valid.
2. What theorems and researches will be lead when the Higgs particle is verified? Also, what do you think on the future contributions of this particle to the world of technology? (Elif)
Well, I can give you a science fiction kind of answer. I don’t know if you know this series called ‘Star Treck’. They’re famous with multiple movies. And there’s this race in this series called the Vulcans, for example Mr. Spock. They wait for human being to reach a certain level of scientific and technological development before making their first contact with them. According to this reality they are waiting, right now they are observing us. They’ll make their first contact with us when we reach Warp 1. That is when we build the first spacecraft that goes at the speed of light. Now, building a machine like this, like the one we have at CERN, being able to reach accelerated particles up to a certain velocity is actually a measure of how far the human civilization has come. The fact that we were able to produce Higgs boson at the laboratory and being able to observe them is not just an achievement of technology, it is more than that. It is something about how well humans now understands the law of nature. Once we have started speaking the language of nature, we were able to build things. You see when people are learning new languages, the first thing that they are told are things that you memorize and you use. For example with a few months of English, you can go to Britain and you can still buy your food, take a cab… But these are very bad established sentences, you just memorize them. So far human beings did this sort of thing but now in the 20th century we are starting to be fluent in this language. We are now starting to peek in that language into translating our normal language into that. That regards, yes this is a very big thing. But it is just one step in this long journey that we can keep on going. Let me give you a historical example, which I think is very helpful for this question. Electromagnetism was discovered hundred years ago. Today all civilization are a part of the electromagnetic civilization, because we use electromagnetism here in this room, in these lights and in the computer lab, everywhere. They had no idea, a hundred years ago where they would use electromagnetism. There was no idea of computers, there was no idea of a CERN machine. So if you ask me now, what the future technologies would advance and what it’ll give rise to, I’m ignorant. So this is what civilization is all about. You use technology to make scientific inventions, that in time those inventions turn into technology and then you use technology to make more scientific inventions.
3. A) Is there another study carried for the black holes which arises and immediately evaporates at CERN during the course of finding Higgs particle? When do the minimal black holes start to gain mass? (Tuana)
Okay, you have asked two questions and both of them are wrong. The first part is wrong. We are searching for possible macro size black hole. But we have not seen any those of yet, so we don’t know if they exist or not. That’s the first part. Second, if they have existed they will never turn in to black holes that will supp everything and become large and extra. So, the reason that you are asking me this question, I can easily get because they are many things about this topic in the news media. And they are all based on some really wrong calculation. But somehow, media took there and they turned this to horror stories. In summary, we have the possible. If nature is such that macro, black holes could be produce, we will produce them and we will observe them but as soon as they appear, they will immediately disappear. And what will you be watching will be the particles that come out of this reporisation.
B) Mr. Arık, you said in Okan Bayülgen’s show that in our daily lives there are black holes which have the possibility to gain mass. Are there any studies related to this? (Melisa R.)
Metin Arık:Everything has a probability in physics. In the quantum physics there is an uncertainty principle. According to the uncertainty principle, you can create anything in space for a short period of time. But it is definetly unlikely to grow by gaining mass. I gave the same example in Okan Bayülgen’s show: For instance I put my cup of tea here. What would you say if you would have seen that this cup just jump up 500 meters per second? You would call it miracle, right? However, I know it. Rapidly and randomly the molecules inside of the cup moves up and down. Incidentally, if all of a sudden the molecules move upward, the cup would move that quickly. But it does not. Why? Because the probability is small. There are worlds that it could happen. Let’s calculate the possibility. What is Avogadro’s number? 23 over 10. Then all of them could go up or could go down. The possibilty of all of them going up is 1 in 23 over 10. Which means one in a billionth, one in a billionth, one billionth. So, if you had a house in 1 in 23 over 10 and had a tea cup like this, and if you observe all of them one of them could jump up, but it does not.
4. When the “God Particle” is mentioned, a person who does not have specific knowledge could easily understand it literally. A writing of İsmet Berkan and the speech of Caner Tastaman say that it is nothing more than a word play. In fact, Peter Higgs -whom gave his name to Higgs-, one time said “God damn particle” because it is really hard to be found, and at last it came to be called God Particle, and Peter Higgs’ angry about the present misunderstanding. Why do you think journalists or “the more cautious” scientists did not put more effort on the correction of this misunderstanding which is leading people into thinking that it is a theory on the proof of God?
In the early 1900s ‘Leonledermon’ the science book was taken for printing. The name ‘God Particle’ was a name that the publisher decided more logical. At first, ‘Damn particular’ was the name of the book but than the name of the book was changed by the publisher to book to get more reader and attention.
5. Higgs formation and disappearance takes place almost simultaneously. The word “particle” gives the impression of something tangible, but it is not. Higgs, either at the Big Bang, or at CERN has formed because both the formation and the later destruction are within possibilities. If the Higgs particle and the quantum theory are open to possibilities and change, can we do an experiment like this: Let’s put the society as the observers, journalists as the huge camera and the news people to be the big crash. What can you tell about the truthfulness of the news? (Melisa R ve Meyzi)
Metin Arık: Now the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics and the uncertainty principle does not lead in daily life. The uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics corresponds to the principle of certainty in daily life. It is a mathematical phenomenon. Maybe it will take an hour to explain this. In summary: According to the quantum mechanics if there is no uncertainty principle and if I know the location and the speed of a particle, then I can know the subsequent location and the speed. This is a cartesian thought. It’s very convenient to Descartes’ philosophy. So everything that will happen next is obvious. Because today, if we decide to observe all the particles in the universe; three days later, five months later, one century later, we can easily say what will happen next. Until the discovery of quantum mechanichs, we thought that it was exactly like that. But we have noticed that there was something wrong. And the wrong thing is: If there is a small change in the place or speed of the intial conditions of the particles, the situation changes in hundred years to a completely different direction. Therefore, a smaller shift should not be possible to react as big change. Today we know that uncertainty principle is a thing that makes things certain in life. Now isn’t there any uncertain things, in these certain things? Yes there is. But this is a complicated fact. And this is not a subject of physical science. Why? Because we say that this a complicated thing and we don’t understand it. Really, the physics that we tell you could sound complicated and it can sound confusing. But it’s not. I mean, the things that we’re doing in there is simple. Because we can explain them. But in other ways, we cannot explain it. Now you will say instead of quantum mechanics, there is something called muantum mechanics. And it’s about the uncertainties in the world. Here, the uncertainties in a person’s behaviors or their lies etc. it’s about them, but it’s not about physics.
Erkcan Özcan: Actually we can say that it’s possible to use technics that physicits use, in other places. For example there is a theory called Chaos. It’s another field of physics and maths. We can use this chaos theory in people’s behaviours, or in traffic, or in things that we define as an uncertainty in people’s life. For example; you don’t know when the bus will arrive. Sometimes it comes in 5 minutes, sometimes in 10. And there is an uncertainty in that too. And physicists do the modeling of this type of things. But this is another uncertainty. So this is an uncertainty caused by not having enough knowledge of something. And I would like to say that physicists infect everything. But what Metin wants to tell is; for example the uncertainty in the quantum mechanics or the things that we investigate about microworld are very clear. You are doing the experiment. And when you repeat it thing move on in the same order. But you cannot do the same with people. For example, someone enters in room. And after 10 minutes, the same guy enters again. But he’s bored, so he smiles at you, but then he turns around and frowns. And if we want to model this, we have to do something different. So that’s why don’t think that the uncertainty in quantum mechanics and the uncertainty in humans life are the same. Otherwise this will lead you to the wrong direction. It can even cause problems about philosophical things. For example; philosophers can say “Look the quantum mechanic has been found, and science has shown that everything is ambiguous.” This is a thing that a man who doesn’t know anything about uncertainty in quantum mechanics comments because he knows the meaning of uncertainty. The real uncertainty in quantum mechanics ensure things to be certain in macro worlds.
Metin Arık: Yes, I will add one more thing about this subject. Now, we have produced a set of values to ourselves as human beings. Foremost among this values is communication between people. Here’s what we call language. Now, we have developed our language to describe humanitarian properties. Therefore, it’s impossible to describe the mass in quantum mechanics. But it’s possible to simulate. We did not write down mathematical equations while talking to you, but we do not trust the calculations and the outcomes we do by our speech, which is our classic logic. What we do for that? We are making theory. What is a theory? It’s a mathematical model of the mechanism of that event. After that, we do our calculations only with mathematical models. We understand the accuracy of the results by doing experiments. Therefore, we do theory. Theory says, do that experient or observe this. So we do the experiment and observe it. We say the theory is correct. Or we say it’s wrong. And the theory meliorates. If the experiment is correct, then theory says look it’s correct, now I can do the next step. I can do a comprehensive theory. And I can see some other things. This is the relationship between theory and experiment. So the thing that we call physics is based on mathematics, observation and measure. It’s not based on words. But we have to use words while we are talking to you.
6. You said that media within 3 to 4 days had been made the issue of black holes unsolvable. Another thing you said was that CERN is emptier than space. Is there a possibility that media could be as this? What do you think on the truthfulness of the news? (Melisa R.)
About the vacuum of the exhalarator. The vacuum inside the exhilarator is still contains a number of particules in it. You cannot get absolute vacuum in it. So, there are some gas molecules that remain in the exhilarator. But the pressure, the amount of molecules per unit volume is much lower than any other location in the solar system. Not necessarily for instance inter galactic open vacuum etc. But still within the solar system the number of molecules per volume is lowest inside the LACT cabin.
Your thoughts on the impartiality of the media?
Media is good. Because they gave us all the publicity. The fact that we are right now in this room media plays a great role in it. There is no such a thing as bad publicity. So, they tell all these horror stories about us. And than none of these horror stories come true. Then we tell them look didn’t we tell you. So, it is kind of fun in some ways. However, it would have been kind of nicer, if media tried to also create sensations not necessarily based on fear but also on wonder. The fact that I am a physicist allows me to look at things in a different picture. You see imagine I have a rose here. Imagine you are all seeing the rose. And it is a beatiful flower. You will all agree on it. It has this nice red leaves and beautiful green… You are all seeing this. But some of us want to know more about the rose. What do I do? I take the rose and I smell it. Once you smell the rose, it is way beyond what you see. For me, it is more than what you see. So, physics and sciences are like that. It allows you to use these extra senses. It allows you to look the whole picture in a much more complete manner. And this creates wonder. You like what you are doing. Imagine you had never smell the nose before. You would not know what you are missing. But once you smell the rose, it is such a wonderful thing. And you would expect that media representinh this part of our work, not the thing that it is so big, so strong, so hot or something like that. But the real wonder of it is understanding of our universe. The real wonder of looking at these things and seeing more than just the bare picture. That is the only thing I would say that is bad with media. We are unable to reach the people and tell them about this wonderful smells of the roses.