Finding the Higgs boson, a breakthrough in fundamental science that in 2012-2013 revealed an elementary reality about how the universe works, has highlighted how much more physics needs to be done.
Discovering the Higgs boson plugs a large hole in the standard model, the highly tested theory that shows all matter is made of a number of elementary particles that interact through four fundamental forces—strong, weak, electromagnetic and gravitational forces. Together, these comprise everything we currently understand about matter.
"The standard model provides a consistent explanation of the subatomic world," said Jonathan Bagger, a high-energy physicist who is the incoming director of Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. "The Higgs boson is at the center of the model. It’s the linchpin. But there’s plenty of the universe that the standard model doesn’t address."
The spirits of Denmark’s greatest scientists were invoked to usher in the start of Europe’s largest general science meeting in Copenhagen this Sunday. Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe 2, called on a long tradition of empiricism from 16th century astronomer Tycho Brahe to Niels Bohr, the 20th century physicist who unraveled the hidden structure of the atom and helped found quantum theory.
"We take great pride in hosting this conference," she said to hundreds of scientists and engineers who packed a hall for the opening of the 2014 Euroscience Open Forum.
Soon after her remarks, José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, threw down a challenge to the rest of the world while also holding out a hand. He said Europe’s commitment to the pursuit of science is evident by the fact that the continent produces two times as many science and technology graduates as the U.S.and invests the most in scientific advances.”Science does indeed matter to the future of Europe,” he said.”Many solutions to the problems today in Europe will come from science.”
Survival of the fittest has served humans and our ancestors well for millions of years. We have developed sophisticated defense mechanisms, like highly specialized senses and immune systems that can thwart many of our greatest threats. And for the things our immune systems can’t defeat, we have developed advanced medical techniques to combat infection and disease.
Of course, we’re not the only creatures capable of adapting. Like all other living organisms, bacteria are constantly evolving. And because they multiply quickly and in large numbers, their rate of change dwarfs our own.