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Curiosity as the engine of scientific discovery and the advancement of Rogerian Nursing Science.

In late 2011, scientists at CERN, the Geneva-based European Organization for Nuclear Research, found tantalizing hints of something that looked like the Higgs boson. The physicists, concerned about unintentionally introducing biases to their analysis, agreed to remain completely unaware of the results while performing blind analysis until June 2012. On July 4, 2012, CERN announced cautiously, at the opening of the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia, that they observed a new particle consistent with Higgs boson properties. Remaining uncertain, they stated that they needed to go through the data and rule out the possibility it wasn't something else. Two separate teams at the Large Hadron Collider, a 17 mile around 500 feet underground tunnel on the French-Swiss border, consisting of 3000 scientists each independently reviewed the data for months. Finally on March 14, 2013, scientists from CERN confirmed that they had indeed discovered the long sought elusive Higgs boson subatomic particle.

Finding it wasn't easy. In 1964, Peter W. Higgs of the University of Edinburg along with two other groups of physicists, one in Brussels and the other at Harvard and MIT, all virtually simultaneously and independently suggested the existence of a particle that provides mass to elementary particles. It took more than three decades, thousands of scientists and the analysis of massive amounts of data from trillions of colliding protons to find because the Higgs boson is so elusive that only about one collision per trillion will produce one of them in the collider. It is a highly unstable particle that is visible only through its decay products and, once created, the particle only exists for less than a billionth of a trillionth of a second before changing into other subatomic particles.

I am writing about the Higgs boson particle for two reasons. First, the long search for the Higgs boson is an exemplary example of the role of curiosity in scientific discovery. Carroll (2012), in his book "The Particle at the end of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads us to the Edge of a New World' states, "particle physics is the purist manifestation of human curiosity about the world in which we live" (p. 7). The Higgs discovery represents the triumph of human passion for discovery. Second, the search for the Higgs particle demonstrates how theory-testing research leads to discovery that can have profound implications by providing support for new understanding of the nature of reality and the universe.

The discovery of the Higgs boson particle is important, not for what it is but for what it does. The Higgs arises from a field of pervading space know as the Higgs field, and everything in the universe moves through the Higgs field. As all particles move through this field, they acquire mass. If there were no such process, everything would be mass-less. According to our new understanding of the Higgs field, the universe is made of fields, and substances are noticed because of their vibrations as they pass through the Higgs field. The vibrations, which appear are the subatomic particles that make the atomic particles. I imagine Martha would be thrilled about the verification of the Higgs field, since her view of energy is grounded in the notion of energy fields and pattern as vibrational manifestations of the energy field.

Second, the "Standard Model" is the reigning theory of particle physics and quantum theory, and all 61 particles predicted in the Standard Model describing the weak, strong and electromagnetic nuclear forces have been discovered, except one, the Higgs boson. More importantly is the role the Higgs boson plays in the Standard Model. It is the building block of all the other particles that have mass. Now that the Higgs boson has been discovered, the Standard Model is complete and the proposed theories based on the Standard Model have a new level of confirmation. The discovery of the Higgs boson has profound implications forever changing our understanding of the nature of the universe. For example, we now have a deeper understanding of the origin of mass. The Higgs boson also now helps us see how two of the four fundamental forces in the universe, the electromagnetic and weak forces, can be unified, and the discovery has implications of our understanding of what appears to be the symmetry in nature as proposed in theories of supersymmetry.

Philip Ball (2012) in his new book, "Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything," illustrates how, through time, great advances in human innovation were fueled by curiosity. Curiosity is the fuels the engine of knowledge and drives our compulsion to understand. In the sense that the modern definition of curiosity more often refers to the eagerness to know or learn something, there are many ways to be curious. Thomas Hobbs (1651/1985), the English philosopher, believed that curiosity, the desire to know why and how, was one of the defining characteristics of humankind that motivates the "continual and indefatigable generation of knowledge" (p. 124). Interestingly, the term "curious" derives from the Latin cura, which means "to care." Curiosity is an essential component of any theoretical and scientific endeavor. Curiosity alone is not a sound basis for a program of research, but rather "it must be disciplined, for example by coupling it with methods for establishing reliable 'facts' empirically and using them to formulate hypotheses and interpretations" (Ball, 2012, p. 397). CERN Director General Robert Aymar also referred to the role of curiosity in the search for the Higgs boson when he stated CERN's "research programme has the potential to change our view of the universe profoundly, continuing a tradition of human curiosity that's as old as mankind itself (Aymar, September 10, 2008, CERN Press Release).

Curiosity was the major energy fueling Martha Rogers' profound and continually revolutionary vision of nursing science, education, and practice. The accounts written describing Martha, especially those published in Malinski and Barrett's (1994) text, Martha E. Rogers: Her Life and Her Work" clearly illustrate how curiosity or the "thirst for knowledge" (Hector, 1994, p. 13) for the purpose of helping others was the fuel and major driving force behind Rogers' life and work. Reading all 20 volumes of The Child Book of Knowledge by the 6th grade and waking up at 5 AM for most of her adult years so she could reach her goal of reading at least 5 books a week (Malinski, 1994) are just a some of the illustrations of her insatiable thirst of knowledge. As Barrett and Malinski (1994) so clearly illustrate, "For her, curiosity and compassion spearheaded the need to know that 'mankind' may benefit" (p. 44). Like the discovery of the Higgs Boson, Rogers' vision of nursing and the universe, based on a synthesis of the most contemporary scientific theories as articulated in the Science of Unitary Human Beings, offers a profoundly new vision, reality and understanding of the nature of nursing with radically different implications for the way nurses practice.

This is the 25th year since the founding of the Society of Rogerian Scholars, and 2013 is the 20th anniversary of this journal. This issue, as all the issues since 1993 when Visions: The Journal of Nursing Science first appeared, comprises examples of research and theoretical works that all originated from the relentless questioning, searching, and seeking for answers to questions driven by the curiosity of the authors. Each and every work published over the last 20 years in this journal has furthered our understanding and the profound implications of Rogers' nursing science. In this issue, Kirton and Morris examined whether power as knowing participation in change is associated with adherence to prescribed antiretroviral medication regimen. The authors offer a new understanding of adherence conceptualized within Barrett's theory of power as knowing participation in change, thus, adherence is a process of being aware, making choices, feeling free to act on intentions and involving one's self in creating change. Kim and Smith used Barrett's power and knowing participation in change theory to examine the effectiveness of a breast health education program. Consistent with Rogers' new worldview, the authors conceptualize an educational initiative "as a health patterning modality whereby a person experiences pandimensional awareness of integrality of human-environmental mutual process." Thus, participants used their awareness to make choices, freedom to act on their intentions, and involvement in themselves to create change. "Participating in screening mammogram is one way a person manifests change to enhance breast health." Fuller, et al. used Butcher's unitary field pattern portrait research method to create a vivid portrait of adult substance users and family pattern in rehabilitation. The researchers provided a new transformative understanding of substance use by transforming the portrait into the language of Rogerian science using the concepts in Barrett's theory of power as knowing participation in change and Rogers' postulates and principles.

Einstein (1955) reminded us "the important thing is not to stop questioning ... Never lose holy curiosity" (p. 64). The advancement of the Science of Unitary Human Beings rests on the continual curiosity of a community of Rogerian researchers and scholars and may the manifestations of their work never become elusive and transitory as the Higgs boson.


Aymar, R. (September 10, 2008). First beam in the LHC-accelerating science. CERN Press Release. Retrieved May 21, 2013 from

Ball, P. (2012). Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Barrett, E.A.M., & Malinski, V. (1994). Revolution and reveille in nursing education and research. In V. Malinski & E.A.M. Barrett (Eds), Martha E. Rogers: Her Life and Her Work (pp. 37-47). Philadelphia: F.A. Davis

Carroll, S. (2012). The particle at the end of the universe: How the hunt for the Higgs Boson leads us to the edge of a new word. New York: Dutton.

Einstein, A. (1955, May 2). Life Magazine.

Hector, L. M. (1994). Martha E. Rogers: A life history. In V. Malinski & E.A.M. Barrett (Eds), Martha E. Rogers: Her Life and Her Work (pp. 10-27).. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis

Hobbs, T. (1651/1985). Leviathan. C.B. Macpherson (Editor). London: Penguin.

Malinski, V. (1994). A family of strong-willed women. In V. Malinski & E.A.M. Barrett (Eds). Martha E. Rogers: Her Life and Her Work. (pp. 3-9).. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis

Malinski, V., & Barrett, E.A.M. (1994). Martha E. Rogers: Her Life and Her Work. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Author:Butcher, Howard Karl
Publication:Visions: The Journal of Rogerian Nursing Science
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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