A fundamental problem for almost all science is how to tell a fluke from a fact.
It’s usually very hard to know whether an experiment’s result reflects a truth of nature or a random accident. So scientists use elaborate math to gauge the odds that a finding is bogus. But those odds rarely offer definitive evidence — or even much evidence at all. In fact, evidence in science is a slippery concept. It’s kind of like the U.S. Supreme Court’s idea of pornography: Scientists supposedly know evidence when they see it.
But they don’t know precisely how much evidence they’ve got; stand... (p. 26)
While some of the hype around the boson’s discovery was exaggerated, many aspects of the Higgs’ real value to science and society went un- or understated.
Found in: Atom & Cosmos
For decades, physicists have been promising the world that it is worth the money to build enormous machines, costing billions of dollars, to shock empty space into revealing an exotic particle called the Higgs boson. After years of false starts and frustration, hints and hopes, the Higgs has finally been found at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva. It’s a cause for celebration — and for explanation, of what the Higgs is and why it matters.
The Higgs’ cosmic purpose
Ever since scientists figured out that the universe began with an explosive bang, some of them have wondered h... (p. 26)
By now, all aficionados of physics news — and quite a few people who don’t know physics from phonics — have heard about the discovery of the Higgs boson. It’s the biggest news in physics ever tweeted. And it came after a long wait. For more than three decades, the Higgs has been physicists’ version of King Arthur’s Holy Grail, Ponce de León’s Fountain of Youth, Captain Ahab’s Moby Dick. It’s been an obsession, a fixation, an addiction to an idea that almost every expert believed just had to be true.
But despite years of searching, using the most complex machines ever built ... (p. 28)
Reporting from the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin, editor in chief Tom Siegfried discusses how neuroscience and artificial intelligence research are challenging ideas of selfhood and humankind's specialness.
Found in: Science & Society
Higgs discovery celebrates math's power to make predictions about the real world.
Found in: Atom & Cosmos and Physics
Alan Turing, often considered the father of computer science, was born a century ago, in June of 1912. He foresaw machines’ potential to mimic brains. (p. 26)
Ask any physicist to name the top two theories of the 20th century, and you’ll almost always get the same automatic answer: Einstein’s relativity and quantum mechanics. But lately a few 21st century thinkers have hinted that maybe the third-place theory should move up a notch. In the wake of the computer revolution, information theory might deserve to displace relativity in the rankings.
That revisionist perspective reflects a late 20th century twist in the story of that century’s theories: the surreptitious merger of quantum theory with information science. Their origins had been entir... (p. 26)
Found in: Physics
Science News mines its past for highlights from nine decades of science. (p. 20)
This essay is part of Demystifying the Mind, a special report on the new science
of consciousness. The next installments will appear in the February 25 and March
10 issues of Science News.When Francis Crick decided to embark on a scientific research career, he chose his specialty by applying the “gossip test.” He’d noticed that he liked to gossip about two especially hot topics in the 1940s — the molecular basis for heredity and the mysteries of the brain. He decided to tackle biology’s molecules first. By 1953, with collaborator James Watson (and aided by data from competitor Ro... (p. 28)
Found in: Body & Brain