Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Harnessing the God particle

Looking for something to break me out of a bloggy funk, I landed on the story of the ill-fated Large Hadron Collider.

By now I'm sure you've heard that mankind's latest, greatest, most expensive attempt to find the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe and Everything was scuttled once again last week when a crust of bread fell on it.

Uncle Nick breaks it down like this:
A widdle birdie dropped a piece of bread on the Doomsday Machine - the one that 'everyone' is worried will create a black hole centered where Earth used to be and extend outward for 5 light years - and shut that sucker down.

All I can say is if there is a Supreme Entity That Oversees All, it sure is an ironist of the first order. And with timing? Oh, snap!
Personally, I kind of appreciate the cosmic poetry of the situation. This machine is designed to allow physicists to find one of the most elusive subatomic particles yet, the Higgs boson. This particle is so elusive, in fact, that it has never been found. It's only theorized at this point.

What I find interesting is that according to the leading theory of the origin of the Universe, the matter that makes up the bread and the matter that makes up the LHC at one point, a split second before the Big Bang, were occupying the exact same place in space-time. And now, a bird brought them back together and it nearly destroyed one of them (not that matter can be created or destroyed -- except through the will of the Supreme Ironist).

I guess it's not really here nor there (as much as any of us are here or there -- you know, on the quantum level), but can you imagine the incredibly long odds at work here, the vast improbability of having a bird fly by this particular place at this particular time with a particularly sized piece of bread in its beak and dropping it with the accuracy of Luke Skywalker bullseyeing womp rats in his T-16 back home into this air vent that, just incidentally, was enough to cause the whole damn production to shut down?


These long odds led a couple of fairly credible scientists to posit the idea that maybe, just maybe, the Higgs boson doesn't want to be found.

According to this New York Times article, there's a chance that the LHC's many problems are a result of sabotage from the supercollider's own future.
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one...

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”
Can you imagine the technical leap forward our species will make if we can isolate and harness this so-called "God particle"? Forget about the energy crisis, say hello to interstellar travel. Hell, it might even mean the development of the Infinite Improbability Drive.

I mean, it's an achievement that would be matched only by the discovery of a way to fix Kansas City Missouri's school system.

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  1. Kudos on the sound science reporting, sir. Well done.

    In a world made up of mostly stupid, it's good to see someone paying attention in class.

    Now if we could just get your mind right when it comes to politics, there might be hope for you yet. :)

  2. My site seems to be experiencing temporal problems; you weren't noshing on a bagel while you were reading it, were you?

  3. As a fan, you might be interested in the LHC webcams. Please to enjoy.


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