Friday, July 6, 2012

The Universe Explained, and You're Welcome

So Anderson Cooper is gay.  Republicans want to repeal the newly validated healthcare law.  The Olympics are imminent.  And oh yeah, they found a God particle. 

A ‘God particle’!?  What’s a God particle, for Heaven’s sake?  Why it’s the long-sought-after Higgs boson.  Oh, of course!  The Higgs boson!  Why didn’t you just say so? 

For the layman, and other ignorant schmos like me, the Higgs boson, dubbed the "God particle," is a key piece in the scientific puzzle that seeks to explain the origin of the universe.  Duh! 

The Higgs boson appeared 13.7 billion years ago in the chaos of the Big Bang and turned the flying debris into galaxies, stars and planets.  Or so the theory goes. 

Physicists around the globe have spent decades with little wrinkles in their foreheads - not to mention billions of dollars in their hunt for an actual God particle - a tiny thingy that makes universes out of flying flotsam.  And now, scientists working at the world's largest atom smasher say they have proof of the existence of just such a, uh, thingy. 

Before you file this in the Who Cares Category, consider the implications:  According to a broad scientific consensus, the formal discovery of the God particle constitutes the greatest advance in knowledge of the universe since E=MCx2 (I can’t get my computer to make that little superscript 2 signifying ‘squared,’ but surely you’re familiar.)   

Proof of the Higgs boson is being hailed as a key to confirming the standard model of physics that explains what gives mass to matter and, by extension, how the universe was formed.  Thank God and his particle. 

Unable to resist the urge to clarify a concept that mainstream media has ranked alongside new apps offering GPS for hikers, Rutgers University physicist Matt Strassler told Reuters that without the God particle, "nothing like human beings, or the earth we live on, could exist."  

But… the fact that we do exist here on the planet sort of proves we could be here, to me at least.  But then I’ve always been easy to please.  For scientists, the particle’s existence has been only hypothetical, in spite of the fact that they themselves were standing around in laboratories, wearing white coats with pocket protectors that couldn’t exist without the flippin’ thing in the first place.   

We’re orbiting a conundrum.  It’s a cosmic chicken and egg.  And I thought working in public schools was maddening. 

In an interview with National Public Radio, physicist Joseph Lykken of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago explained the difficulty in tracking down the particle.  "It exists for a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second, or something like that, and then falls apart into other particles."   

Oh I see.  Like the attention span of a Labrador retriever.  Got it.  Thank you.  

I’m not going to be the one to break it to all these eggheads, but there is another question on the edge of its seat, waiting for the confetti to hit the ground.  If you’ve just popped your champagne’s cork, you might want to avert your eyes. 

Where’d the God particle come from? 

It seems obvious to me, but as mentioned above, I’m on a simpler plane than these guys.  On the other hand, maybe I’m more of like mind with Albert Einstein than my husband would ever admit.  In describing his ‘cosmic religion,’ Einstein spoke of a "miraculous order which manifests itself in all of nature as well as in the world of ideas."  

Yeah, go on.  Preach to me Albert. 

"…I have nothing but awe when I observe the laws of nature,” he said.  “God is a mystery.  But a comprehensible mystery.  There are not laws without a lawgiver.” 

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!  Who better to create Mr. Higgs’s boson?  Or maybe what better?  I’ll grant the lab geeks that much. 

But Albert is more quotable than I am.  He maintained that "even though…religion and science… are clearly marked off from each other" there are "strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies, as aspirations for truth derive from the religious sphere."   

For Einstein, "Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind." 

Go Albert!  You rock.