Rushville Republican

Columns

March 20, 2013

Stuart: A cathartical particle article

RUSHVILLE — In one of the most exciting advances in the realm of science since Penny and Leonard starting dating again on “The Big Bang Theory,” scientists have said they are confident they have found a Higgs boson.

Make that “finally have tentatively confirmed the existence” of a Higgs boson. It took a half a century, and billions and billions of dollars to conduct the search that led to this thrilling tentative confirmation. And even today there are two teams of researchers, 3,000 scientists on each, doing further calculations, measurements and data analysis to resolve conflicting viewpoints on which one them does the best impression of Carl Sagan saying “billions and billions.” (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Google “Carl Sagan” and “billions and billions” and before long, you’ll be working on your imitation of him!)

So what is a Higgs boson? It is a particle, a sub-atomic speck. It is a key to the theory of how everything works, why any substance or thing has mass, and to how the Big Bang led to the creation of the universe, thus connecting it to every monumental mystery ever pondered by mankind, such as the genius of Mozart, the elegance of a leaping dolphin, and why is my 11-year old an Atlanta Falcons fan.

Maybe somewhere along the line you’ve heard the Higgs boson particle referred to by its nickname “the God particle.” I heard a radio interview the other day with a guy named Dick Teresi who co-wrote a book about the Higgs boson called “The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?” This book originated the “God particle” nickname.

Amusingly, Teresi said when he proposed that nickname to physicist Leon Lederman, his co-author, Lederman said “No way.” But Teresi, who had already written seven books, said look, no publisher has EVER used one of my proposed titles, so there’s no harm in submitting it. (Interestingly, there must be a law of physics behind this editorial act, because none of my column headlines EVER get used by the Republican. Except those that you like and think are funny; those are totally mine.)

Anyway, the publishers liked “God particle,” much to Teresi’s and Lederman’s surprise. However, it turned out all right in the end; ultimately, the nickname only offended two groups, those who believe in God and those who don’t. And thus the book sold like a stack of hotcakes at IHOP. That is, it sold three copies, which is the size of a stack of hotcakes at IHOP.

Apparently in the book, which I haven’t read, since I already fully understand the quantum physics behind the Higgs boson, Lederman wrote that he really wanted to nickname the Higgs boson the. . .uhhh, how should I put this. . .the “God-[structure that beavers build]” particle. But Teresi says that was just a joke; it was included in the book because Lederman had yearned all his life to be a stand-up comedian. Alas, we never got the chance to argue if Lederman’s “Top Ten” lists were funnier than Letterman’s; Leon instead lived the humdrum life of a theoretical physicist with little to show for it beyond the meager recognition of a Nobel Prize.

Speaking of which, there might be a really big brouhaha around who should win a Nobel Prize for finally locating a Higgs boson. It could be Higgs. As in Peter Higgs, a British theoretical physicist who first proposed it’s existence, way back in 1964, mainly to distract the other physicists in his lab, who had been spending long hours, week in and week out, exchanging the first letters of each other’s names; he’d become “Heter Piggs,” which led to him being called “Piggs” on a daily basis to a hysterical chorus of physicist giggles, and he was bloody well tired of it.

Controversially, there’s some serious dissent that the particle should EVER have been called Higgs boson in the first place. For example, Dick Teresi says at least six other physicists helped “discover” it back in 1964. But maybe Higgs, who’s still among us, at age 83, would be willing to see the name changed? If so, since it took so long, and the confirmation is still only tentative, here’s an idea I think makes sense, the Where’s Waldo particle.

Contact: TakeFiveT5@yahoo.com

1
Text Only
Columns
  • There's something about Maryland My family unit has just returned from a death march – oops, make that, “vacation” – in Annapolis, Maryland. In spite of constant 96-degree temps (though it dropped as low as 95.7 at night), and the stifling humidity, we had lots of dolgurn fun. Mainl

    July 22, 2014

  • Learning to say goodbye From as far back as I can remember, saying hello has been a part of nearly each day.During my youth, it was used when I met new people my parents introduced me to and was frequently followed by a handshake. I couldn’t count the number of times I used

    July 18, 2014

  • Lessons from the largely forgotten war As we approach the official date on which the First World War started, July 28, 1914, when the first shots were fired by the Austro-Hungarians who invaded Serbia, it’s appropriate to think about the lessons that catastrophic event has taught us one h

    July 15, 2014

  • Please go away My wife is planning our summer vacation, which we will take in the fall. We took our spring vacation this summer. We got behind in 1984 and still haven’t caught up. I don’t have much input into the planning of these trips, but Mary Ellen did assign m

    July 15, 2014

  • Soothing '60's Surf Sounds I’m sitting in my home office enjoying a serenade of rhythmic pulsations emanating from the outside wall. It’s coming from our water spigot. No. 5 son (age 13) and his buddies are using it to fill water balloons. 1,500 water balloons to be exact. 1,5

    July 15, 2014

  • Soccer-stopping Storm a Lousy Treat What a great way to spend a Saturday morning in July: I’m sitting in my car with rain cascading on the roof, lightning skittering all over the sky, and thunder sockin’ it to the atmosphere with such force that I feel a rumbling in my bum.I’m staring

    July 8, 2014

  • Only in America - Top 10 As we move into the glorious months of summer, I thought you might be amused by reading the Top Ten List of what Canadians supposedly think of how things are going in this country. It’s a lot like David Letterman’s “top ten list.”Number 10: Only in A

    July 8, 2014

  • Government today is way too intrusive What ever happened to the America of my youth? That great country that was indeed the jewel of the common person of the world. The country where one could actually, through hard work and industry, make a good living and actually have the OPPORTUNITY

    July 8, 2014

  • Gone in the blink of an eye Over the holiday weekend I was able to enjoy three days, (somewhat) off work. Three day weekends are always a highlight for me and I am sure most of you will agree.I went fishing to wrap up my Sunday evening. While sitting in the old John boat castin

    July 8, 2014

  • Mum Mum If my grandmother were alive today, she would be 125, and she would still, no doubt, be walking around in her six-inch-high heels, the ones she asked to be buried in—and she’d have a Marlboro in her fingers. She demanded to be called Mum Mum because

    July 3, 2014

Featured Ads
AP Video
Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.