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The Higgs Boson and Beyond

The Higgs Boson and Beyond

Professor Sean Carroll, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology

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The Higgs Boson and Beyond

Course No. 1205
Professor Sean Carroll, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology
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4.7 out of 5
163 Reviews
87% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 1205
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  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is not heavily illustrated, featuring a variety of visuals designed to aid in your understanding of the course material, including eye-catching graphics and illustrations of concepts like gluons, quarks, and Feynman diagrams, as well as photographs and illustrations of the remarkable Large Hadron Collider. There are on-screen spellings and definitions to help reinforce material for visual learners.
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Course Overview

The search for, and ultimate discovery of, the Higgs boson is a triumph of modern physics—a global, half-century effort whose outcome would make or break the vaunted Standard Model of particle physics. The hunt for the Higgs was the subject of wide media attention due to the cost of the project, the complexity of the experiment, and the importance of its result. And, when it was announced with great fanfare in 2012 that physicists succeeded in creating and identifying this all-important new particle, the discovery was justly celebrated around the world.

And yet, virtually no one who happily read that news could tell you what, exactly, the Higgs boson was, and why its discovery was so important that we had to spend 10 billion dollars and build the single largest and most complex device in the history of mankind in order to find it. When you truly understand the details, this story ranks as one of the most fascinating, important, and thrilling in the history of modern physics.

Now, in The Higgs Boson and Beyond, award-winning theoretical physicist Sean Carroll returns to The Great Courses to guide you through the details of this incredible story. A brilliant researcher working at the very forefront of physics, as well as a gifted speaker who excels in explaining difficult and esoteric scientific concepts to the public, Professor Carroll is perfectly positioned to tell this story. In this 12-lecture masterpiece of scientific reporting, you'll learn everything you need to know to fully grasp the significance of this scientific discovery, including:

  • the basics of quantum mechanics;
  • the four forces that comprise the Standard Model of particle physics;
  • how these forces are transmitted by fields and particles; and
  • the importance of symmetry in physics.

In addition, Professor Carroll offers an in-depth view of the Large Hadron Collider—the largest machine ever built, and the device responsible for finally revealing the concept of the Higgs boson as reality. By the end, you’ll understand how the Higgs boson verifies the final piece in the Standard Model of particle physics, and how its discovery validates and deepens our understanding of the universe.

A Discovery of Mass Importance
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Higgs field to the structure of our world and the universe itself. First postulated to exist in 1964 by Peter Higgs, the Higgs field and the particle associated with it explain one of the most fundamental concepts of reality itself—how elementary particles get mass. In addition, the discovery of the Higgs boson has importance for a huge number of unanswered questions and exciting avenues of research in modern physics, including:

  • insight into the nature of the universe and its ultimate fate;
  • the existence of scalar fields—fields with a zero "spin" that, prior to the discovery of the Higgs field, were only theoretical in nature;
  • insight into cosmic inflation—a theory that describes exponential expansion of space during the first few moments of the universe;
  • new understandings of how symmetry and symmetry breaking works; and
  • new approaches to understanding dark matter and possible extra dimensions.

In addition, you'll come to understand how the Large Hadron Collider, which was built specifically for the task of creating a Higgs boson, has immense value in future experiments in physics.

A Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Professor Carroll's Higgs Boson and Beyond is a feast for the eyes as well as the mind. Produced on a virtual set, the course utilized purpose-built graphics and 3-D models as an incredible aid to understanding the material, allowing somewhat abstract and unusual concepts to be clearly rendered before your eyes. This is an experience like no other, a presentation beyond anything that you could experience in a traditional classroom.

A theoretical physicist of significant standing in the scientific community, Professor Carroll followed the hunt for the Higgs boson with rapt attention and was present at CERN on the day they announced the discovery. Between his access to the researchers working on the project, and his expertise in modern physics, he has a uniquely clear view of the subject. He also has an exceptional ability to explain complex scientific concepts in a way that makes them clear and comprehensible to any motivated learner. All of these factors make Professor Carroll the perfect guide to this complex and rewarding story.

The Higgs Boson and Beyond will expand your understanding of the universe by taking you on a tour of its most fundamental components. With the insightful guidance of Professor Carroll, you’ll soon be able to understand one of the most important discoveries of our age.

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12 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Importance of the Higgs Boson
    Why was the discovery of the Higgs boson such a big deal? That's the key question that Professor Carroll tackles in his illuminating introduction. Take a fascinating dive into the world of modern particle physics and see how the Higgs is the missing piece of a scientific puzzle that helps us understand the "rules" for the universe. x
  • 2
    Quantum Field Theory
    Toss out the textbook image of electrons circling an atom's nucleus. This lecture explores the big twist of quantum field theory: The world isn't really made of particles. They're fascinating and necessary figments of quantum mechanics created by observing the fields that fill every inch of the universe, and grasping that eye-opening concept is essential to understanding the Higgs. x
  • 3
    Atoms to Particles
    Now that you know what particles really are, it's time to walk through the particle zoo and explore the roles of photons, gluons, and quarks. Along the way, Professor Carroll looks back on the development of the Standard Model and how our changing understanding of the weak nuclear field suggested the existence of the Higgs years before we found it. x
  • 4
    The Power of Symmetry
    Symmetries don't only apply to geometrical objects. They apply to the laws of physics themselves. In this lecture, you may feel your mind twist in asymmetrical ways as you explore how symmetry governs the known forces of nature and how it helped form a wild theory that an as-yet-undiscovered particle - the Higgs - must exist. x
  • 5
    The Higgs Field
    With the basics of particle physics covered, Professor Carroll walks us through the decades-long hunt for the Higgs. You'll meet the many brilliant minds - Anderson, Englert, and Higgs among them - who determinedly set out to solve the mystery of the weak nuclear field. You'll also discover why Angelina Jolie is like a top quark. x
  • 6
    Mass and Energy
    In this lecture, classical" physics, as explained by Newtonian and Einsteinian mechanics, provides insight into what makes the Higgs so special. Uncover the key to the Higgs's uniqueness in the particle zoo - that even at its minimum energy state (its "resting" state), the Higgs field has a large, constant value." x
  • 7
    Colliding Particles
    Once physicists established the need for the Higgs boson to exist, how did they set out to locate it? It was just a matter of bringing the particles and fields together under the right conditions. You'll see how physicists use Feynman diagrams to keep track of how virtual particles carry the various forces between quarks and leptons. x
  • 8
    Particle Accelerators and Detectors
    Want to build your own particle accelerator? You'll need a lot of money, a lot of room, and the information that Professor Carroll shares in this lecture. You'll learn that particle accelerators aren't simply atom smashers." They bring into existence new particles that weren't there before." x
  • 9
    The Large Hadron Collider
    If blacksmithing were like particle physics, the Large Hadron Collider would be the anvil. Seventeen miles around and representing the unprecedented cooperation of scientists worldwide over the course of years, the LHC is a remarkable achievement. Explore its construction, capabilities, and amazing promise for the future of physics. x
  • 10
    Capturing the Higgs Boson
    Looking for a needle in a haystack? Try looking for a never-before-seen particle in the largest machine ever built. With the LHC complete, the search for the Higgs began in earnest, and particle physics combined with probability to find the missing piece in the Standard Model puzzle. Professor Carroll describes both the exciting hunt and the key players in the amazing discovery. x
  • 11
    Beyond the Standard Model of Particle Physics
    Now that the Higgs boson has been found, everything is answered, right? Not quite. Professor Carroll says the properties of the Higgs suggest that something else is at work out there. Moreover, the Higgs boson can be a stepping-stone to our exploration of dark matter, extra dimensions, the asymmetry of matter and antimatter, and a Grand Unified Theory of particle physics. x
  • 12
    Frontiers: Higgs in Space
    The Standard Model explains the forces and molecules that comprise us and everything with which we interact. But even with the Higgs, we can't explain the stuff that makes up 95% of the universe: dark matter and dark energy. In his conclusion, Professor Carroll shines a light on dark matter, its relationship with the Higgs, and the wonderful mysteries still ahead. x

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Your professor

Sean Carroll

About Your Professor

Sean Carroll, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology
Professor Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He earned his undergraduate degree from Villanova University and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Harvard in 1993. Before arriving at Caltech, Professor Carroll taught in the Physics Department and the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and did postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of...
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Reviews

The Higgs Boson and Beyond is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 163.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Commitment essential Not for the faint of heart. Much of the course would be impenetrable to a general learner who has not spent time trying to grasp the concepts of modern physics. For those that have, it is possible to make some progress by letting the expositions wash over you, without troubling too much about whether it is all being absorbed, but to really take it in requires considerable commitment. Constantly stopping and replaying sections was necessary for this learner, and where this was insufficient, extensive reading through Wikipedia and other sources was necessary to try to grasp the explanations on offer. The professor is clear and engaging, but asks a lot of us. Anyone staying the course, however, will greatly deepen their understanding of the scope and concepts of present-day physics and will be able to follow future developments with great interest.
Date published: 2018-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating but difficult By turns fascinating and frustrating, no Great Course has inspired me more than this one, or required as much Wikipedia and YouTube research to keep up. Not having a science background, I found myself in the deep end of the pool. Yet even allowing for that, there seem to be some holes in the story. (This review describes my personal experience, but my rating is aimed at people who are already familiar with the standard model.) For instance, early in the course we learn that particles don't really exist at all, but are only what we observe when a field "is excited" or "vibrates." Indeed, that particles are essentially a "fiction." How this squares with the "shut up and measure" school of Quantum Mechanics is not addressed. I kept wondering how vibrations (much less fictions) accelerate and collide, but we are never told. My working hypothesis is that, although fundamental particles are vibrations, complex particle systems like neutrons, themselves bundles of quarks, are actual tiny things. But, because neutrons are constituent parts of atoms, they are, confusingly, also called "particles." (An aside: at the Large Hadron Collider, do neutrons collide stripped of their protons? Or do entire nuclei collide? And what happens to the leptons?. Could what happens at the LHC be rephrased in terms of fields? If so, why not use the language of fields, at least briefly? If not, why not?) The question is too big to be left hanging. Likewise, we learn that fundamental particles have generations (the up quark begets the charm quark, which in turn begets the top quark; the the down quark begets the strange quark, which in turn begets the bottom quark; even the tiny neutrino has offspring). Contrary to expectation, however, rather than decay, each generation gets larger. Why is this, and how does it work? The explanation went by in a blur if it was addressed at all. Nor is the booklet enlightening. On page 5 we read "There are four fundamental forces in nature: gravity and electromagnetism, which are the strong nuclear forces, and two nuclear forces that only work on very small scales and are called the weak nuclear forces." Say what? Elsewhere I've gotten the impression that, although gravity and electromagnetism are immensely far-ranging, at the nuclear level, gravity is so weak that no one would miss it if it didn't show up for work. (An empty cage is being held for it at the particle zoo.) And the binding, or "strong" nuclear force, however short its range, is anything but weak. Getting deeper, one reads that the weak nuclear force, although vital (among other things, it keeps electrons from whizzing past nuclei), may actually be understood as an aspect of electromagnetism, which is then called the electro-weak force). In short, this course is both fascinating and frustrating. Taken as a whole, the positive aspects cancel out the negative, and with a lot of positive energy left over. Although provoking, I found this course challenging and inspiring. If I had a friend who was into physics I would recommend this course, but I would not recommend it to anyone I actually know.
Date published: 2018-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from an amazing course In this course, Carroll attempts to explain the discovery of the Higgs Boson and its significance within the standard model of particle physics, all without using math. This is a difficult task, and Carroll's course is a remarkable achievement. One caveat, this course could be quite difficult for someone with no physics background at all. I have a very basic physics background, having taken a year of intro physics in college, and I will admit there were several segments in this course I had a difficult time following, for example the 4th lecture on symmetry. But on the whole, I was happy that Carroll's explanations were occasionally too complex, rather than not complex enough.
Date published: 2017-12-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Could have been much better This is an extremely complicated subject for a non scientist such as myself. Over the six hours of lectures for this course, Dr. Carroll spends a lot of time going over history. Too much in my opinion. He spends a lot of time pointing out all of the people involved that no one has ever heard of. He goes on to say that even naming the Higgs Boson and the Higgs Field for Peter Higgs was simply an error and an oversight on the part of physicists. This came across to me as simply sour grapes even though he may (or may not) be correct. He criticizes the Nobel selection committee for not giving credit to the thousands of physicists involved in finding the Higgs Boson. This may be technically correct but totally unnecessary in this course. I would rather that he spent more time explaining things about the actual particle physics involved than going over and over all of the human flaws of history involved with the Higgs Boson and the Higgs Field. I feel like the couse could have been half as long if all the ancillary and unnecessary personal opinions were eliminated. Or conversely, more time could have and should have been spent on explaining more thorougly the particle physics involved so that we lay non-scientists could understand the subject matter better. Dr. Carroll's presentation style and manner, however, was generally good.
Date published: 2017-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love this course! I have been listening to this tape in the car. I find that I really like this lecturer...he makes it sound like he is having a conversation with you. Dr. Sean Carroll puts affect and genuine enthusiasm into a very difficult subject. Yes...I have had to listen to some lectures repeatedly before I caught onto what is going on but the subject matter is fascinating, never the less!
Date published: 2017-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating physics Very intriguing look into particle physics & the awesome intellect in international physicists. I enjoyed the course but one should know something about particle physics to get the most out of it. Very good lecturer
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Difficult topic handled by a master Disclaimer: I am a big fan of Carroll's overall philosophy and technique of communication. As a physicist I enjoy popularized science when done accurately and try to do this myself in my own teaching of the lay public. I find Carroll's approach extremely effective. He does not oversimplify yet he does an excellent job making the material understandable to most interested people. The most difficult part was near the end when he tried to explain how the measured Higgs mass was precariously near an instability. I stopped studying high energy physics some decades ago so perhaps I am a good judge of this problem.
Date published: 2017-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! The Higgs is an important discovery that should be of interest to anyone wanting to know the nature of reality. I have all of Dr. Carroll's courses and he never disappoints.
Date published: 2017-11-25
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