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Lifting 1,000 pounds and looking for the “God particle”

I ran across a Brit trying to lift 1,000 pounds and another Brit looking for the “God particle”, and I thought they had something quirky but meaningful to tell me.

Science has come a long way, but physicists are understandably frustrated because after all this time they still cannot explain matter. Photons (particles of light) have zero mass. Why do some particles – luckily for us – have mass?

This is not a question that preoccupies Andy Bolton, who has been working for the last nineteen years to raise 1,000 pounds into the air with his bare hands. Pumping iron at the gym, he knows matter has mass, and it’s heavy – in the case of a 1,000 pounds it weighs about as much as a small car.

Before Andy began lifting weights, physicist Peter Ware Higgs was trying to figure out the particle mass business. He was walking in the Cairngorms in the 1960s when he suddenly thought he understood how it worked.

He suggested that the source of mass was a ghostly field that pervades every nook and cranny of the universe. Particles moving through this field (called the Higgs field) gather mass by way of the Higgs boson.

Backed up by mathematics so intricate it's impossible to do justice to it here, the Higgs mechanism is generally accepted as an important theoretical construct in the Standard Model of particle physics. But the Higgs boson has not been found. However, Higgs, now retired from the University of Edinburgh, thinks he may see his theory proved at last when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland goes operational. (Via Instapundit who led us to the story in Popular Mechanics.

Meanwhile, in December 2006, “Andy, 36, from Armley in Leeds, amazed fellow strongmen across the world by deadlifting – raising to waist level – an incredible 1,003lbs during a competition in New York” (Yorkshire Post). It is the first time 1,000 pounds have ever been raised. "I never dreamed it would be possible," said Andy, "until the last few years and then I realised I could do it.”

Andy went home to celebrate with his wife and baby daughter. Higgs and his fellow physicists are still searching. They may have interesting news soon.