This one time, at the Grand Canyon…

About two weeks ago, for my birthday, my boyfriend and I decided to hike down and up through the Grand Canyon in one day. We headed out of our hotel around 8:30am and were on the South Kaibab Trail off the South Rim by 9:15am/9:30am. Unbeknownst to us, our trip down one of the World’s 7th wonders was not going to be without a physics lesson.

…As an adventurous pair, it only seemed fitting that we conquer as much square mileage as we could while we’re young so we hit the sand with a brisk walk. Not long after starting our hike we caught up to a young German couple taking an extended vacation through the United States. Our paces matched, and so did our adventurous spirit of making it in and out in a day, so the four of us began walking together, trading stories of travel and eventually, physics.

The gentleman of the couple, Christoph Anders, is a practicing young physicist working on exploring and investigating the properties and truth behind the Higgs Boson. It took me a few minutes to rattle off some terminology banter about neutrinos and quarks so I could feel like I knew what I was talking about unit I had the courage to ask him, “Um, So…what’s a Higgs Boson?.”

Over the next 20 minutes, and at least a half mile farther down the canyon, Christoph explained his theory that 2012 is the year of Higgs and that scientists around the world are (hopefully) going to be able to narrow down the true nature and properties of the Higgs Boson. In other words, this year will either prove that the Higgs Boson is an elementary particle believe to have no charge, no spin and is essentially a reason for the mass in elementary particles.

According to Wikipedia, “The existence of the Higgs boson is predicted by the Standard Model to explain how spontaneous breaking ofelectroweak symmetry (the Higgs mechanism) takes place in nature, which in turn explains why other elementary particles have mass.[Note 1] Its discovery would further validate the Standard Model as essentially correct, as it is the only elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model that has not yet been observed inparticle physics experiments.[2] .” Now, forgive me for turning to Wikipedia but it’s a good precursor to this BBC Article that explains why the Higgs is so important.

Like Christoph confirmed near sea level in the desert, figuring out the Higgs could confirm more than just the properties of an elementary particle. It could open an entirely unreached level of physics.

So, let’s just all agree that the Higgs is a pretty big deal.  And if the story behind this big guy is figured out this year, than we’ve got an even bigger deal on our hands.

Here’s the Physics, meeting wonderful new people, and hiking 18.5 miles in and out of the Grand Canyon in 8.5 hours.

Christoph has a wonderful photography blog that can be found here.

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