19 October 2009

The Higgs boson and me

There has been much talk on the internets of late of the Large Hadron Collider, and the kill-your-grandfather paradoxing effects of the Higgs boson particle the Collider is attempting to find. Stemming from a NYT article that commented on papers published by Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya, the theory goes that the elusive Higgs boson particle is "so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one". The theory accounts for the failure of previous US efforts to actually build a Superconducting Supercollider, and last year's magnet failure that caused the shutdown of the LHC.

Before you dismiss the notion it is worth pointing out that last week as the LHC reached its operating temperature of 1.9 Kelvin (-271 degrees C, -456 F and colder than deep space) the French police arrested a physicist working at CERN for alleged links to al-Qaida. According to the Guardian: "judicial officials (said), the man has acknowledged that he was in online contact with the group and had discussed possible terror attack plans in outline terms". CERN has to be one of the most secure research facilities in the world, with extensive background checks. Though poor rapping skills do not appear to be an impediment to employment one imagines links to fundamentalist terror groups would be. The odds of an employee with alleged links to terror groups evading all screenings and finally being discovered mere weeks before the LHC is fired up again must be almost as small as those of finding the Higgs boson itself.

I mused on this cosmic conundrum as I spoke with my mother this morning, who yet again canceled a planned meeting between my family and that of the Very Understanding Girlfriend. We have been together for thirteen years, and although they live in the same city our families have never met. Never. While supposedly our two mothers encountered each other for milliseconds as mine dropped a package off at her's when the latter was about to visit us in the US, no actual recording or measurements of the alleged incident exist. Without scientific proof, I remain a skeptic.

Thirteen years, and no meeting. What are the odds?

This latest hurdle concerns a ramp that is being built at my grandparents' house to allow them better access to the front door. The house is on a hill with a steep meandering path that leads up to it and many, many steps. While the ramp is being built the steps and path have been dug up, meaning that my grandparents will be housebound until the ramp is finished. Work started today and continues until Friday, but this Wednesday was the only day that the stars were sufficiently aligned to allow three generations of the Very Understanding Girlfriend's family and mine to congregate in the same place at the same time.

Since this get-together has been on the calendar for over two weeks there is no possible reason on earth why the week-long work on the ramp had to start today, unless the meeting of our two families will be an event of such cosmic significance that the Higgs boson will be generated in the process, sending ripples backwards in space and time to prevent any such familial encounter from occurring in the first place.

I tried to explain this theory to the Very Understanding Girlfriend as she phoned her mother to cancel yet again, but she didn't seem too impressed with the maths, nor my use of Summer Glau and Michael J Fox as the x and y axes in the probability graph I used for illustrative purposes.

"Its not me", I argued, "Creation itself is conspiring against us"

Thus far, she remains unconvinced.



At 6:42 pm, Blogger 2BiT said...

No way! 13 years?!?!? that's some serious evasion there...
What genetic abnormalities are you hiding from her? :P


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