Getting in deeper and deeper over my head

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 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.



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13 responses to “Getting in deeper and deeper over my head

  1. Who knew such a small entry would require so much reading. I had not known about the Higgs boson or the birdie that left his lunch in it, but I find it all fascinating. I’ll likely procrastinate further by looking up more about why the thing’s supposed to be doomed (if I only had a brain…).

    • Kearney, NE is well-represented here, I see! Erica, thanks for stopping by. And if you want, you can help join the wanton overthrow of science by postmodernism. It’ll be fun.

      • Funny thing–The relationship to physics and the humanities came up in a lecture I went to today–specifically about the changing attitudes about time, periodization, and race. Whereas the author of “Spooky Signals” points out that it’s not very scientific of scientists to see a reasonable argument and dismiss it out of hand because it seems too crazy, the speaker today (Michelle Wright of Northwestern) pointed out that we can’t use our cultural assumptions to shape the kinds of questions physicists, humanists, or anyone else asks. It seems the humanists aren’t overthrowing science with postmodernism as much as using postmodernism to encourage better science. If that means million-count decks of cards or not, I’m all for it.

        • Erica, that sounds promising. Now, does that also mean that when Larry Summers asked whether women have less scientific or mathematical aptitude, that we should have explored the question more objectively? A lot of people brought assumptions to bear and quashed this line of inquiry, because the question itself was deemed dangerous. Or at best, a red herring. Would it have been a good use of resources to scientifically explore the issue to prove it wrong or right? Or would it have done more damage to women in science and math fields to take the question seriously?

        • I’m also reminded of this article:

          Here is a perfect example of a situation where our assumptions (that women in charge of theatres, as artistic directors and literary managers would give women playwrights a fairer shake) needed to be directly confronted, scientifically. I think this is a fantastic example of how the arts and humanities need more economists. Of course, I’m biased in that regard. 🙂

  2. Good news for physics enthusiasts, as well as apocalypse enthusiasts (read: fundies)! The LHC has started some trial laps…

  3. Great… really awesome matter. I will blog about it also.

  4. Pingback: Swing your hips to the Apocalypto beat! « to compete with phrasemongers…

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  7. I didn’t understand the concluding part of your article, could you please explain it more?

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