The Higgs Boson and Beyond

Course No. 1205
Professor Sean Carroll, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology
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Course No. 1205
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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
 |  Average 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 193.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clearly and Logically Presented A remarkably clear and logical presentation of an extremely complex and difficult subject. I have read numerous books and watched several videos on the subject of Quantum Mechanics which all left me confused and discouraged. The manner in which this course developed the subject matter finally began to give me a glimmer of hope that I could begin to comprehend this new reality, and am wanting to learn more!
Date published: 2018-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course - fascinating My primary interests lie in the areas of philosophy and religion, so this course has a significantly different focus. I had no previous exposure to quantum theory or physics, applied or otherwise. I found this course to be fascinating. The presentation and all the explanations were detailed and clear, without necessitating a deep dive into the underlying mathematics. The video supporting the topics was also helpful. I think anyone with an intellectual curiosity would enjoy this course.
Date published: 2018-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Candy for the Brain As an "older" woman with no science background, but lots of interest, I was spellbound by this course. I can't pretend that I grasped it all, but enough to make me want to dig deeper. What a great way to keep my mind active!! Dr. Carroll was a great lecturer and kept my interest even when I didn't quite get it. The course production was excellent and helped enhance my understand. I highly recommend the video as opposed to just the audio. I plan on taking all of Dr Carroll's courses in physics.
Date published: 2018-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nice overview of the latest in particle physics for the non-physicist including the importance of the higgs boson and how particle accelerators are built. This is a lot of material to absorb, and in lesson 11, he finally lost me. I need to mull this stuff for some time and then go back to lessons 11, 12/.
Date published: 2018-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Complex ideas explained clearly. A fascinating walk through the world of particle physics, the LHC and, of course, the Higgs boson.
Date published: 2018-07-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from very complex, good attempt to make it simple I was distracted by the staging. Too much of a performance.! Hardly a course. Professor explained well and tried to not use math equations. I much preferred the desk and presentation in the astronomy course.
Date published: 2018-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Carroll presented the heretofore baffling Higgs Boson within reach for a mind not steeped in particle physics or quantum mechanics. He presents very clear analogies while dispelling faulty common analogies. Thoroughly enjoyable much as his Dark Matter, Dark Energy course. I am no longer terrified by physics.
Date published: 2018-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title was consistent with the content I wanted to learn about the Higgs since I had taken University level particle physics in the late 1970's. This video course filled in gaps and is presented by a true expert who does walk through the historical build up to the Higgs. The proof of the Higgs existence as predicted from theory brilliantly confirms that field theory and symmetry are a sound model for the subatomic. This course explains without undue complexity another fascinating piece of the mathematical tapestry we humans have woven that explains the universe of all things. Discoveries like this reaffirm my belief that the invention of mathematical science is proving to be the crowning achievement of mankind.
Date published: 2018-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyably dense and completely fascinating, I've listened to this a couple times over and love it.
Date published: 2018-06-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Needs more lectures I loved this course but there is far too much material covered in too few lectures. I could not begin to digest it all. Quantum field theory is super dense and needs much more time to tell.
Date published: 2018-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sean Carroll is the absolute best ever! I have 40-year-old degrees in physics and math, was a math teacher as a young man, was a US Air Force officer, and am a recently retired senior manager of a $35 billion aerospace/defense company. Stand-up presentations were a daily routine for me and I have studied and taught the art of effective communication. In my judgment Sean Carrol is as close to perfect as I have ever seen. I will buy any course he offers.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not for the faint hearted If you are comfortable with particle physics concepts such as fermions, bosons, spin and colour then this is a fascinating step up to quantum field theory. If not then you might enjoy Don Lincoln’s “The Theory of Everything” first. Sean Caroll’s energetic delivery assumes a confident familiarity with the material and I found some of the lectures called for a review of the notes and a second viewing. Having said that, the course is fascinating, informative and very enjoyable.
Date published: 2018-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation Prof. Carroll gives an excellent presentation of an intriguing subject. Brings the whole subject to life in a very interesting way.
Date published: 2018-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Polished presentation, excellent instructor We just finished watching this course and were thrilled with it. I felt there were a couple of areas that lost me, specifically the explanation of symmetry and the point of adding up values from Feynman diagrams. That said, the rest of the course more than made up for my confusion in these two areas. Prof. Carroll begins with a discussion of field theory and the particle zoo. Since these topics were new to me I was enthralled. His presentations were clear and densely packed with information. More than that, the caliber of the production is noteworthy in and of itself. Prof. Carroll uses several tactics to keep the viewer engaged in a course that largely discusses the unsee-able - backdrop panels move slowly, he constantly shifts between cameras, and he incorporates several good dollops of physics history. Surprisingly he never stutters or has empty air time. He's constantly explaining abstruse concepts in clear English and has frequent computer-generated visual aids pop-up next to him on the screen to illustrate points. I feel this course is informative and thought provoking. I found myself rushing gleefully to the den each evening where my spouse and I would settle in for our nightly installment of knowledge. I very much enjoyed the course and recommend it highly.
Date published: 2018-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting research The Higgs boson has been at the center of recent research and any one who is interested in physics would want to know about this recent discovery. Excellent professor.
Date published: 2018-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exciting concepts This series takes you through the entire stands model of particle physics and explains the final piece the Higgs-Boson (and how they discovered it). The lecturer is clear and straightforward and there is no necessary prior knowledge to enjoy this course
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very interesting overview Just what the Doctor ordered! Exactly at the level of what was needed without going overboard, or tripping up, on math or theory. Nicely done!
Date published: 2018-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great professor makes a complex subject enjoyable I bought this course a month ago and have enjoyed every lesson. Dr. Carroll gives an excellent presentation on some complicated topics in a clear and logical manner. He weaves in some history and personalities from the quest to develope the standard model of particle physics giving the subject a human touch. He clearly enjoys his field and his enthusiasm comes through in every lecture.
Date published: 2018-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Couse Prof. Carroll has a real gift for explaining complex concepts clearly. Seeing his name on a course is enough for me to buy it.
Date published: 2018-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Deep enough to lay groundwork to take it further. I have a masters degree in math and a bachelors in engineering. All that was quite some time ago. As a semi-retired person, I wanted to learn more about the very large and the very small. Given my background, I wanted a rigorous introduction. I started with some videos available on youtube. In particular, to learn about the Higgs Boson, I viewed Dr. Leonard Susskind’s “low-impact” lecture at Stanford. There is no question that Dr. Susskind is a giant in the field and that his lectures are accessible to one with the proper preparation. But it took about ten minutes to realize I was in way over my head. I was lost in a “Mexican hat” in two dimensional fieldspace! I realized I need to back up and learn something about Quantum Field Theory. But, more importantly, I realized that I did not yet know what I needed to know. Enter this Great Course. Dr. Carroll gave me enough on Quantum Field Theory and the Particle Zoo to whet my appetite. I also enjoyed the historical anecdotes, because they gave me a “backdoor” into all the moving pieces of this great discovery. Long story short, I’m ready to go to the next step, and have picked up “Quantum Field Theory for the Gifted Amateur.” It would be great if someone like Dr. Carroll could do a much longer, mathematically rigorous course on Quantum Field Theory. But of course this would have a limited audience (I can just see the reviewers here complaining about the presence of Lagrangians and tensors).
Date published: 2018-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Though I've only listened to two chapters I've begun already to understand the significance discovering the Higgs means.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant and User Friendly Professor Carroll manages to explain very complex concepts with a minimum of equations or esoterica. His delivery style is warm and engaging. The computer graphics are among the best I've seen in a Great Courses lecture. If you want a great explanation of the Higgs Boson, the Higgs field (it really does matter), the particle zoo and the wonderful Large Hadron Collider plua learn about some amazing women and men scientists, this lecture is for you.
Date published: 2018-02-03
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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