Posts Tagged Cern

What is the meaning of it Watson?

The search for the Higgs Boson took a bizarre turn this week with the announcement that there could be at least five different kinds of the God Particle, maybe more. Not so long ago the scientists at Cerne were confidently predicting that they would find the elusive Higgs Boson this year, now it seems the search could go on forever.

What’s going on here? Are the little devils breeding like rabbits or are the scientists simply trying to ensure that in these cash straightened times they will retain their funding. After all, once they find the God Particle, it will be a case of job done and so long professor!

You have to admit, it’s a pretty good wheeze. Anytime the boffins at Cerne feel their jobs are under threat they can simply increase the population of Higgs Bosons awaiting to be discovered. I doubt that Sherlock Holmes or even his arch enemy Professor Moriarty would stand much chance of unravelling this mystery.

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They seek him here, they seek him there . . .

A few months ago they said they might have missed it. Now they’re claiming they may have glimpsed it. The Higgs Boson particle is proving as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is of course a fictional character: a foppish English aristo who risks his life to save French aristos from the guillotine during the reign of terror, but he does share a number of important characteristics with the Higgs Boson particle.

1) He constantly eludes detection

2) No one is quite sure if he exists or if he is just a myth.

Imagine the Higgs boson was a person rather than a particle. Say a clever and resourceful jewel thief, wanted all over Europe but no one knows for certain who he is or what he looks like. A French professor claiming to have seen him reports his sighting to the local gendarmerie.

‘So professor, you say you saw Higgs Boson.’

‘Yes. Yes, I did,’ the professor replies. The man is red faced and excited and the detective wonders if he has been drinking.

‘And where was this professor?’

‘It was in the tunnel at Cern.’

The detective leans forward eagerly. He can see the headlines now: Inspector Clouseau – the man who brought Higgs Boson in. ‘I need to know when, and more importantly I need a description – what did this man look like?’

The professor looks stricken. He hesitates. ‘Well, it was . . . erm, very dark in there. ‘

‘But, you saw him, right?’

‘It was more in the nature of a glimpse actually . . . ‘

‘A glimpse! The detective shouts, then in a calmer voice,  ‘Just how long was he visible for?’

‘Well, it ‘s hard to be absolutely precise about that.’ The professor pulls a sheaf of computer printouts from the briefcase he’s been clutching, ‘If you take a look at these numbers, you can see there’s a spike in the data just here . . .’

The detective sighs. ‘Thank you professor. I don’t think we need detain you any longer.’

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So, who’s got the God Particle?

An article in The Sunday Times the other week suggested that the elusive Higgs Boson, the so called God particle, may have been found 11 years ago. What’s going on here? Did an absent-minded professor put it down for a second and then forgot where he’d put it, or did some disgruntled employee steal it?

Scientists have been searching for this particle since the 1960’s, when Professor Peter Higgs first proposed its existence. So you can imagine the consternation at Cern, home of the Large Hadron Collider (a misnomer if ever there was one – it’s not just large – it’s enormous), when this oversight came to light.

Picture the scene: the head of Cern summons the entire complement of scientists and technicians to a meeting. Stepping up to the podium, he gazes out over the sea of expectant faces.

‘I think you all know why I have asked you here today,’ he intones sternly. ‘I don’t want to involve the police in this matter, unless I have to. So, if the Higgs Boson is handed in before the end of the day, we’ll say no more about it.’

Not quite how it was, but far weirder things go on in the world of physics. It’s full of strange theories, backed up by mathematics that ordinary human beings find totally incomprehensible. We just have to take the physicists’ word for it when they say that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42, or whatever it turns out to be.

And the names they give to these things: quarks, gluons, worm holes (essentially short cuts to other parts of the universe), string theory and the rest. It’s even been suggested that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes where each of us has a doppelganger living out a different version of our lives.

What if one of these doppelgangers was to stumble into a worm hole and end up in the wrong universe: the same supermarket even as oneself. Bit of a shock coming face to face with an identical twin you never knew existed. Which begs the question: would it even be possible for the two of you to occupy the same cosmic space, or would it be a case of this universe ain’t big enough for the both of us?

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