New Course: The Higgs Boson and Beyond

Happy to announce that I have a new course out with The Great Courses (produced by The Teaching Company). This one is called The Higgs Boson and Beyond, and consists of twelve half-hour lectures. I previously have done two other courses for them: Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time. Both of those were 24 lectures each, so this time we’re getting to the good stuff more quickly.

The inspiration for the course was, naturally, the 2012 discovery of the Higgs, and you’ll be unsurprised to learn that there is some overlap with my book The Particle at the End of the Universe. It’s certainly not just me reading the book, though; the lecture format is very different than the written word, and I’ve adjusted the topics and order appropriately. Here’s the lineup:


  1. The Importance of the Higgs Boson
  2. Quantum Field Theory
  3. Atoms to Particles
  4. The Power of Symmetry
  5. The Higgs Field
  6. Mass and Energy
  7. Colliding Particles
  8. Particle Accelerators and Detectors
  9. The Large Hadron Collider
  10. Capturing the Higgs Boson
  11. Beyond the Standard Model
  12. Frontiers: Higgs in Space

Because it is a course, the presentation here is in a more strictly logical order than it is in the book, starting from quantum field theory and working our way up. It’s still aimed at a completely non-expert audience, though a bit of enthusiasm for physics will be helpful for grappling with the more challenging material. And it’s available in both audio-only or video — but I have to say they did a really nice job with the graphics this time around, so the video is worth having.

And it’s on sale! Don’t know how long that will last, but there’s a big difference between regular prices at The Great Courses and the sale prices. A bargain either way!

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27 Responses to New Course: The Higgs Boson and Beyond

  1. Ray Gunn says:

    In our infinite universe there is another Earth exactly like our own except that Sean’s new course is 10% cheaper there. Also, Chik-Fil-A is open on Sundays.

  2. bostontola says:

    Best of luck with that.

  3. Paulina says:

    Thanks, Dr Carroll. I’ll probably go bankrupt, but at least I’ll be able to talk about the Higgs in English 🙂

  4. Elto Desukane says:

    Here is a question that’s bugging me. Hope someone has an answer.

    In the usual “standard model particles” table,
    quarks/leptons vs fermions/bosons, we have:
    line 1 is (u c t gamma)
    line 2 is (d s b Z)
    is there any reason to line up the bosons with the fermions?
    Is gamma in some way in the same family as the u c t quarks ?
    Is Z in some way in the same family as the d s b quarks ?
    Or is the matching a meaningless graphical choice?

  5. Sean Carroll says:

    Just a meaningless graphical choice.

  6. James Collins says:

    Got it immediately as video download and I’ve started it. Very exciting! I posted the information on a free, current Futurelearn course on the discovery of the Higgs–

  7. James Collins says:

    Excuse me if you answer these questions in later lectures but I have two questions (& I promise not to pester you!)
    1. How would you characterize gravity: a force field, an exchange of gravitons, a warping of spacetime geometry? Are these mutually exclusive models? (I recently watched a Liza Randall talk relating gravity to string theory and branes etc. Another model?)
    2. Is there some definite number of fields? I think I read some 50-odd exist. So, presumably any given point may have multiple fields? Would there be a field for dark matter particles? For SUSY etc/

  8. Sean Carroll says:

    James — All of those are equally valid ways of talking about gravity. (Part of what makes physics confusing.)

    There is some definite number of fields. We know what the number is in the Standard Model, but very likely there are others we don’t know about. E.g. there should be fields for dark matter, etc. Every field has a value at every point.

  9. David Stewart says:

    Thanks, Sean! The arrow of time does make it’s way — you mentioned you’d like to do this course, during a brief hello in Austin at UT last April when you gave a lecture on the topic. I get the discs, but a peak at streaming…Wow!! love the HD format and opening design. My wishes came true in that regard! And now Christmas — opening the chapters!!

  10. John Barrett says:

    How you describe the Higgs Field makes me wonder if it is a contending theory to String Theory, since strings in string theory are described in a similar fashion (that their vibrations are the particles in quantum theory). Are there hopes that the Higgs Field could replace String Theory?

    I have still been wondering if there has been any new discoveries made to explain how the Higgs Boson could produce two photons. It seems like if there was no intermediary particle involved in the reaction that the goal of finding the Higgs Boson so that it could determine if quantum physics has been on completely the right track or not could come to fruition, since it was thought that photons could only be generated by charged particles from Yang-Mills Theory.

    I would like to think that there was no intermediary particle involved in the interaction. It seems like it would be a revolutionary discovery in physics, but I fear that the lack of discovery on this subject is just going to achieve nothing and get physicist nowhere fast. It seems like the discovery of the Higgs Boson should have blown up the discovery that it doesn’t seem to support the Yang-Mills model…

  11. Joel Rice says:

    M. Veltman said that the Cabibbo angle is another number for which we have no explanation … and Theoretically there is a relationship to the Higgs particle.
    ( Facts and Mysteries in Elementary Particle Physics (2003) page 104 )
    Just wondering if that is still the thinking – or are there new ideas ?

  12. Marcos says:

    Hi Sean,
    I got the course the second I saw the post; I’m a lawyer here in Brazil but a big cosmology and quantum physics enthusiast, but most of all a big fan of yours.
    I have “The Particle at the End of the Universe”, but I was wondering if there’s a chance to get a signed copy in the near future, or of any other book of your authorship — it would be a great honor.
    Thank you in advance. Best regards.

  13. Jeff K says:

    Thanks Dr. Carroll! I have both your 2007 course on Dark Matter and Dark Energy as well as the recent course on Time’s Arrow. Both are excellent and I immediately ordered your course on the Higgs. I can’t wait to watch.

    There is one thing I’ve been hoping for a while- For the last couple years I was hoping there could be a 2nd edition to your Dark Matter/Energy course. I loved it because it went into lots of technical detail. Surely there could be some changes in the technical details since 2007?

  14. haolin says:

    Is this supposed to mean no offer again? send one, do not want online courses

  15. Adam H says:


    You like Feynman and Susskind are a great explainer of things. I’d like to see you do a course like Susskind does on maybe Cosmology that is more advanced and rigorous than a lay man’s book on physics but not quite so advanced as a Grad student in physics. I like to see the math structure and explanation more than the metaphors because you learn more even though it’s a bit more daunting.

  16. Sean Carroll says:

    Marcos– If we ever bump into each other, I’d be more than happy to sign a book. I don’t do signings by mail, I’m afraid.

    Jeff– Honestly there haven’t been many changes in our understanding of DM/DE in the last few years.

  17. kashyap vasavada says:

    @John Barrett: In case Sean does not get to answer your question, here is my answer. Of course any (knowledgeable) person is welcome to make corrections if necessary. You are right that the fundamental coupling of Higgs Boson to photons should be zero because photons have zero mass. But having intermediate virtual particles in a Feynman diagram is routine. In this case Higgs would break into a virtual quark-antiquark pair which would give rise to 2 photons. There is no paradox in this.

  18. Duhoc says:

    The lectures are magnificent. I, for one, cannot think of any cultural experience I have found more fulfilling. They are better than the Dark Matter lectures, and anyone who watches them should consider themselves privileged to know and understand discoveries that have illuminated the natural forces at work in the universe, explained by the best lecturer I have ever heard. I assure everyone this is not hyperbole, just the truth. There are just two issues I should like to bring up. First, in the YouTube post in which Sean gives his arguments against divine intervention in fine tuning the universe, he asked the question, whether the nature of life was more consistent with naturalism than religion. This annoyed me greatly as I believe it is an oversimplification, judging the complexity of the information systems that govern life. But I wonder what Sean would say with respect to the standard model, which from the same aesthetic sense he appealed to in his argument, bears no relation to naturalism whatsoever. In a billionth of a billionth of a second the entire system simply appeared, as opposed to evolving in a statistical realm. The second issue is why would anyone present a set of problems without the solutions? Since, the spirit of the lectures seems so considerate of the student, and the complexity of the problems might require help to solve.

  19. Duhoc says:

    Power of symmetry lecture was hard.

  20. Pingback: A Cosmic Quest for Dark Matter | pundit from another planet

  21. Walker Guthrie says:

    I have some of your other Great Course’s lectures and I must say they are pleasure to watch. I have learn what the formula in the header of your blog is now.
    What do you think about the work that is trying to link gravity to entropy?
    Time arrows and lines drawn pointing away form the center of mass, I think are incorrect. But I have been wrong many times before.

  22. James Collins says:

    I’m only halfway through the lectures, but I have to write to say how excited and even awed I am. I have read tons of physics books for the layman (including your own) but this course takes my level of understanding to an entirely new level. You actually make clear the true, modern , field-based view of reality–in so far as it can be explained without the elaborate math beyond most of us. Terrific job and thank you!

  23. Duhoc says:

    I thought the mass and energy lecture was the best so far. But I don’t completely understand how the Higgs field breaks symmetry. What symmetry is it breaking? Is there some mechanism contained in the standard model that is preventing some fields from reaching lowest energy? Is it the non-zero energy alone that breaks the symmetry or is that energy being used somehow to break it?

  24. Joe Pasqua says:

    I’m really enjoying the course. I wish the lecture on symmetry were three times as long. It’s a fascinating subject on its own and one you’ve motivated me to delve into more deeply. Thank you.

  25. Jeffrey says:

    Great addition to the Great Course catalog. While I am at the early section thanks for the most part explaining quantum physics in terms of our observation…the particle(s), while simultaneously the reality of a ..field. Best explanation to a concept I have found most difficult. Looking forward to rest of the lectures.