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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The Higgs Boson and Beyond is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 193.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Course for Almost Everyone Actually I would have written that it was for everyone, until I read some of the negative reviews. I think that this course is for those who are interested in how the universe works, or in how the world works. Even if you are a physicist or have a strong background in physics there is much to be learned (particle physicists excepted) from Dr. Carroll. It is also for most persons who have not had much particular interest in science, most especially those who have math phobia. The course is almost without math. And while the concepts that are introduced are deep, they are presented in a straightforward, non-mathematical fashion that appeals to anyone who is open to learning new things—concepts to be sure that may seem to be counter-intuitive. While I don’t think that one needs college physics to understand the concepts presented, it is true that at times Dr. Carroll moves a bit fast, especially for those with little or no hard science background. But if you are in that category, the explanations of these concepts are understandable. And for those who would benefit from a prereq or two, I suggest Dr. Steven Pollock’s excellent “Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos” and Dr. Carroll’s companion course, “Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe”. I’m sure that there are other equally fine prep courses available that help those with little or no physics or math background. While I think that almost anyone would benefit from this course, the concepts are deep. It requires thought. Dr. Richard Feynman, a Noble winning physicist and allegedly as brilliant a teacher, confessed that his inability to explain an obscure point of quantum mechanics simply, meant that “we” really don’t understand it (the point). Certainty I don’t pretend to understand quantum mechanics at the level necessary to claim that I do (and I am not sure that I have the ability (not to mention the time) to learn the math necessary), but after listening to and watching Dr. Carroll (among others, including Dr. Pollock)), I am much closer to having a good (though not sound) understanding. I wrote in my ‘Dark Matter” review that while many may be gifted in understanding and advancing such concepts, fewer still are able to explain those same concepts to lay audiences. Dr. Carroll is one of those who can. On more mundane matters, the set is stark and innovative, the graphics help quite a bit and Dr. Carroll’s delivery is low-key, insightful and often amusing. I did not think that he spoke too quickly, but some reviewers have felt that he did. It may be that the view of his delivery speed reflects the prior amount of subject matter knowledge of the viewer. Pretty much there is nothing about this course that I don’t like. Get the course, but buy the video. Pictures help.
Date published: 2017-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good course! I started listening to this course about 3 weeks ago. Explained in a way that was easy to understand. I have purchased several courses over the last couple of years and I have been very impressed with each one.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and Informative This was a fabulous course--I watched all 12 lectures straight-through! The lecturer was very, very well prepared. He presented complex (well, complex to me) material in a way I understood and repeated information just enough times to be helpful rather than annoying. Generally, I wouldn't care much about scientific apparatus, but even the lecture on the Large Hadron Collider was fascinating. Wonderful, wonderful course!!
Date published: 2017-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating exposition Professor Carroll scores again with another great course. He explains everything clearly and the new graphics methods are very helpful. Be forewarned, however, the material comes fast and heavy, even though very well articulated. Unless you're a trained physicist, and even if you've studied other Great Course titles on related topics, when you watch these lectures you'd better strap in.
Date published: 2017-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy enough for a sixty-plus to understand Computers came to me AFTER high school. Still, I listen and relisten to these lectures knowing it will sink in. On a humorous side, it helps me understand Star Trek science. Also helps me talk with the grandkids when we talk about space exploration.
Date published: 2017-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fine Learning Experience This is an excellent course. In a few lectures it makes a difficult subject very comprehensible.
Date published: 2017-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Presents the subject matter without all the fluff. This is the first course from The Great Courses I purchased. It does a very good job of explaining the Higgs boson, what it really does, and it's discovery. After watching this you can easily filter out all the mis-information that appears in the popular press about this subject. I have watched it twice already. I thought so highly of this course that I have purchased four other course over the past nine months. I just hope the Great Course produces a similar course on the other recently made great discovery, gravity waves.
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic new perspective Just wanted to point out on Amazon Prime episode 3 has the Closed Captioning running from episode 1. Great visual medium to convey such a fresh, almost new perspective to a "beaten dead horse" topic. Definitely glad I took the time to view this. Now to learn the math. Any suggestions?
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from boson excellent course. I knew nothing of it prior to this course, now, at least I have some idea what it is and how it fits. Quantum field theory, standard model of particle physics, particle zoo. Dr Carroll, you crack me up, great course. Thank you.
Date published: 2017-07-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Satisfactory lecture needs more visual aids As one whose exposure to physics occurred many years ago, I was hoping for some visual aids to help the rather dense lecture. Watching the speaker apparently trying to keep his audience awake by waving his arms, I longed for the simpler approach my high school teacher had.
Date published: 2017-07-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Higgs boson arrived defective Higgs disk number one causes DVD player to vibrate badly; no other dvd causes this in my player; Higgs number two does not cause vibration; I called, but couldn't talk to a person; I emailed you, but no response; I sent the product back to you and it cost me $15.21; still no response from the great courses!
Date published: 2017-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Higgs Boson and Beyond says it very well I had the good fortune of touring the CERN LHC in 2007. Ever since I've wondered how this all happened and where it will lead us in more fully understanding how our universe works. Professor Carroll did an outstanding job of explaining how we got to where we are and what is yet to come.
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the higgs boson This is course i will return to when i complete other courses it was brilliant 1st time through and i am sure a further reading will unveil other surprises.
Date published: 2017-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course for the non professional. Prof Carrol is an excellent teacher who can overview a very complex analysis of particle physics without getting into the complex mathematics of this field. A great deal of information is provided removing some of the mystery of this extremely technical subject.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good instructor difficult topics explained very well, but it would be nice to see a bit of the math
Date published: 2017-06-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from absolutely needed to understanding while I did not understand a lot of the discussion, it opened my eyes to the latest in fields, physics and the meaning of BEYOND. I will watch it again from my digital library as I sent it to my 52 yr old son. I also bought a copy for my teenaged grand nephews. This is a must for anyone and especially those interested in any science. Faraday is justified!
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Take the last news about particle's quantum world! This course is well developed in explaining the last news about particle's quantum world, with obvious special attention to the Higgs boson and field. There's also a good intro about Large Hadron Collider and his functioning. At the end of this course there is also a little introduction to problems not yet solved in quantum phisics!
Date published: 2017-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superior The presenter, Sean Carroll does an outstanding job in presenting a difficult area to understand. Good pace.
Date published: 2017-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! I'm halfway through the course, and it's exactly what I was looking for - not too technical, but not too basic either.
Date published: 2017-05-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Nice course, but .... This is a hard course to rate. Like so many reviews for TGC a persons expectations play a big role in their opinion. I'm surprised it got so many 5-stars. Professor Carroll's presentation is excellent. The subject is timely. It certainly points out the complications of particle physics and field theory. This course is an excellent attempt to cover semesters worth of particle physics and field theory in 12 lectures. However; to really understand the subject several semesters of preliminary courses in particle physics and field theory are required. Making this a 36 or 48 lecture course filling in some of the many details ( such as the particle zoo, Feynman diagrams) would be better. I am not suggesting this is a "bad" course; just be aware the student's ability to understand and appreciate the materiel in detail is probably heavily dependent on previous knowledge. From a "big picture viewpoint" it does convey the importance of the Higgs and is a nice short history of mankind's attempt to understand the "sub-atomic world".
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Higgs Boson and Beyone What a great course. I have an MS in physics and a continuing interest in the very big, the cosmos, and the very small, elementary particles. This course expanded my understanding of the very small; fascinating! Professor Sean Carroll is a great lecturer. He has the skill for making a difficult subject easy to understand. At the conclusion of one session, I found myself anxious to watch the next one. I recommend the course to anyone. You don’t have to have a physics background; just an interest.
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from bummer! I bought this yesterday. I forgot that I needed to copy this (via iTunes) to an iPod for play in a vehicle system. Needless to say, I don't want to pull over on the highway to move to the next of the 12 chapters. I'm looking forward to listening to it but....What a pain!
Date published: 2017-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the Title points clearly the areas covere by the c this course covers recent discoveries that have been made about the Higgs boson and how it interacts with the known quantum universe. Professor Sean Carroll breaks down the intricate effects of the Higgs boson and the Higgs field in a manner that simplifies the explanations in an easily understandable way. I had no problem absorbing the material and greatjy enjoyed Dr Carroll's presentation.
Date published: 2017-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative, challenging, and understandable I am just getting started with this presentation, only finished the first DVD, but I am really impressed with the presenter and clarity with which he presents on a challenging topic.
Date published: 2017-04-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I enjoyed the course, but it is hard to visualize some of the concepts. Even after the course, I am skeptical of the whole Higgs field, a uniform field throughout the whole universe, where the energy in a space the size of a ping-pong ball has as much energy as the mass of the earth. My math skills aren't good enough to look at the equations, but my common sense tells me something is still missing from the Standard Model of Particle physics.
Date published: 2017-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind boggling. Great follow-up to Particle Physics for non Physicists. Professor Carroll is very enjoyable to listen to and really knows his stuff. Enjoyed it immensely.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect! Exactly what I hoped for! This is one of my favorite Great Courses. I finished it with a sense of awe, lots of new knowledge, and an excitement for physics! The "promise" of the course was really delivered upon. I feel like Professor Carroll struck a perfect balance between not dumbing things down but not leaving lay-people behind. I'm definitely a lay-person when it comes to physics; I've read a couple articles online and watched the TV series Cosmos. But I feel like I really got the what, why, and how of the Higgs boson, its history, its discovery, and its significance. The pace, presentation, and professor's obvious love for his subject was beautiful...never a dull moment! My only complaint is that I didn't leave with a very solid understanding of all the "other particles." This is of course all about the Higgs, but other particles play a large role in understanding the subject as a whole. Even though it was covered in a lecture, I have no idea what W bosons, charm quarks, or neutrinos are or what the differences between them are. I don't know if it was because it was glossed over or whether it could be more intuitively taught. Either way, I still enjoyed the course and "got" most of it. As a note: this was the first Great Course I've done via video. I'm really glad I did. The visual references were a little sparse, but necessary and helpful for me!
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Enough Lectures Too much material in first six lectures; makes it seem disorganized.
Date published: 2017-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended The content and presentation are excellent. Carroll starts with the very basics needed to get us up to speed and then walks us through the physics we need to know to understand what the Higgs is and how they found it. Besides the simple fact that he knows the subject matter inside-out and is a very good speaker, I especially appreciated two things about his presentation: He very liberally acknowledged all those people who came before him and who contributed to the development of the physics that led to the Higgs prediction and discovery. He also devoted time to the engineering side of the discovery, pointing out and describing what it took to build the machine that made the actual discovery. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spectacular Presentation! I'm just blown away by Professor Carroll's command of this utterly complex subject and by his ability to describe it with such a smooth, clear, and articulate oral delivery! Furthermore, the animated graphic support provided by TGC is astounding!! No plain old PowerPoint slides here!! I say that as one who regularly made business presentations in my career, and as one who has only scratched the surface of subatomic particle physics. Nevertheless, this course has given me an appreciation of the huge depth at this end of the physics pool! Except for the understanding that we must explore science for whatever we may discover, as mankind always has, I struggle for a reason to delve so far into subatomic physics. Only one value-centric reason comes to my mind: the ultimate ability manipulate gravity. As Professor Carroll makes clear, we're still in the early stages of this subject, in which Einstein's theoretical elegance is sorely missing but which may be just around the next corner!
Date published: 2016-12-23
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