So the science community is again threatening us with finding the Higgs-Boson. Notwithstanding the admitted and sheer improbability of ever finding the “G-dd@amn Particle” in the avalanche of data compiled by the various particle accelerators around the world, every six months or so the physics community, the mainstream media, or some conspiracy of the two warn us that they’re about to. Watch out. Oh you thought it was called the “God Particle”? Sorry. No. That’s the sanitized-for-public-consumption version. It’s called the “G-dd@amn Particle” because they can’t find the dang thing. Honest.
Theoretical physics is awesome. This idea that men and women scratching lonely numbers on a sheet of paper could make, not simply educated guesses, but Battleship direct hits on some of the greatest and deepest mysteries of the cosmos, without the aid of clinical experiment, is pretty special. And, to those on political philosophy only, books about it are my favorite.
But, there is some irony in it all. Richard Dawkins and others are ruthless in condemning a kind of “god of the gaps” mentality among the religious. I don’t know the answer, so it must have been “god.” I can’t explain creation, so it must have been “god.” Tebow can’t throw, so it must have been “god.”
But, that’s sort of precisely what theoretical physics is, right? There is a hole in the data. A paradox in the theory. A gap in the explanation. And, these brilliant individuals make a guess, albeit educated and well measured, but a guess nonetheless about the “god” necessary to bridge the gap. String theory. Multiple universes. Higgs-Boson. These are all a type of “god of the gaps” — the only explanation we can come up that makes the rest of what we do see and experience make sense. To be sure, many a scientist has been rocked by an unexpected empirical turn. Expanding universe. The attributes of light. But, regularly we are looking for those things as we’ve imagined them to exist.
And with Higgs-Boson, specifically, scientists have all types of expectations about its character. It has no spin. It’s massive. Other particles are generated out of its decay. It’s actually part of an enormous and ubiquitous background Higgs field, that gives reality it’s physical structure.
The famous theoretical physicist Lawerence Krauss said, “That’s the difference between science and religion. We don’t require the universe to be what we want — we force our beliefs to conform to the evidence of reality.”
But, isn’t that precisely what the search for Higgs-Boson is? Expecting the universe to be exactly as we believe it must be?
For a change, though, it would be nice to “discover” something we didn’t expect.
Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by pumpkinFoot.
Today’s song blog here:All Spin