If you, like me, are a layperson with a geek’s interest in science and access to the internet, you have probably heard about the latest antics of the Higgs boson. Apparently, this self-hating god particle is travelling backward through time to our present in order to kill (or save) its grandfather with a baguette. The good news is, we might be able to divine the will of the Higgs using a million-card deck, and save it the effort. I’m not sure why we wouldn’t just take the next step and use a ouija board, but I guess that’s why I’m not a high-energy physicist.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, start here. More on the baguette here. Two interesting coincidences (or ARE they?) to note: the LHC was shut down last year after Holger Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya wrote the first paper suggesting it might never work because this universe will not allow it; and the baguette thing just happened last week.
What I find bizarre is how much the idea that nature-abhors-the-Higgs-boson-enough-to-prevent-its-discovery upsets other scientists. Many seem to think it is just a hoax. Some seem to think we’re devolving to reading entrails, and calling it science. I guess it is likely that Nielsen and Ninomiya are not entirely serious. Perhaps they wrote it to entertain us while they’ve been sitting around, waiting for something interesting to happen in particle physics, intending to sell the rights to Hollywood. The title of the paper on arXiv.org brings to mind the recent, and brilliant, Onion satire of supposed Chinese industrial fasicsm. But in the midst of the maelstrom of indignation from concerned physicists, and the background noise from relative (it’s all relative) beta-plusses like me, one Caltech physicist has the courage to ask us all to calm down. And he has the cleverness to explain the concept in a way that I can almost understand. Sean Carroll, I salute you for competing with phrasemongers.