Monday, July 09, 2012

Forty-five Years Before the Higgs Boson

Red Ball
1967: The Disch/Sladek Nullitron Emerges from the Target Chamber.

By now, because of the wall-to-wall news coverage, most people know everything they will ever be able to understand about the Higgs Boson and, in many cases, quite a bit more. But how many of you remember the discovery of the Nullitron, exactly forty-five years ago in 1967?

There are a number of intriguing parallels and some equally interesting differences between the Higgs Boson and the Disch/Sladek Nullitron. I'll let you read the original report on the Nullitron (linked below) for most of them, but I can't resist a few:

i ) The Higgs Boson gives mass to matter but it was discovered too late to give any to the Nullitron so it has none.

B) Producing Higgs Bosons requires the CERN particle accelerator -- a gizmo so big that it straddles several of Europe's admittedly smallish countries -- while in 1967, for the experimental production of the Nullitron ... a "cyclotron one mile in diameter filled with alternate solid blocks of lead and quicksilver" was deemed "useful but not essential".

3) The Boson is a big deal but the Nullitron is physically bigger than the Boson.

IV. The Higgs Boson has no charge, no spin and no color charge while the Nullitron also has no charge, and presumably no spin since it is said to have no properties at all except for being red and rather shiny.

For more information about the Nullitron, see the original report -- The Discovery of the Nullitron -- from Galaxy Magazine, February 1967.

Photo Credit: Random borrowed photo of a red ball, entitled "Red Ball" by Rennett Stowe, on Flickr