I've just watched Hank's video "The LHC and Alex's Survey" and it reminded me of some questions that I've always wanted to ask a physicist but I've never known a physicist to ask so...challenge to all physicist and generally interested people of nerdfighteria, answer these question:
1) As I understand it, the LHC is (amongst other stuff I think) looking for something known as the Higg's boson which is a particle which fills in the gap in all our theories about the universe BUT what happens if this particle doesn't actually exist? I don't mean what if our theories are wrong but what if the gap is just a gap?
2) Whenever I hear about people looking for extra-terrestrial life, everyone talks about looking for a planet with water and an atmosphere similar to our own BUT why are we doing that? Surely if there is extra-terrestrial life, for all we know it breathes hydrogen and drinks liquid nitrogen? So why the obsession with finding "another earth"? We evolved to fit this planet so surely if there are Martians, they would have evolved to fit Mars?
So.....fire away :)
Disclaimer: My knowledge is pretty basic so sorry if I got stuff wrong but I only did physics up to the age of 14 so my questions are out of curiosity from what I've heard about - sorry if that info is wrong. DFTBA
I'm not quite a physicist, but I am a physics major, so I'll do my best to answer your questions.
1. Yes, it is definitely possible that the particle doesn't exist (and in many ways that would be more interesting for science than if it does exist). I'm not totally sure what you mean by it just being a gap, but our theories not being wrong. If the theories predict, or necessitate its existence, which many theories do, then it's lack of existence does by definition prove the theories at least partially wrong and it is time to start developing new theories. Or did you mean if it does exist but we can't find it? That would certainly be an interesting situation because I believe that people would treat that as if it doesn't exist and it could lead to a lot of time spent working on incorrect theories when we already had functional theories.
2. In general, I believe that this is because such planets would be more likely to develop life at least somewhat similar to ours (I'm not sure why we care about that, but it seems we do). Also, although I agree, it does seem logical that life could develop in other circumstances if necessary, we have no proof of that. In contrast we do have proof that life can develop in conditions like ours. I think this forms the basis of why we are looking for similar planets, although I'm not completely sure. Anyway, I just hope we find some other life someday.
Let me know if you have any more questions - these were really fun ones. :)