The idea for this came to me on the weekend when I was running past TRIUMF. One of the perks of living in Vancouver is you can run through a beautiful, moss-soaked coastal temperate rainforest—the kind of place that makes you think Yoga should be lurking nearby—and then emerge next to a particle accelerator.
We don’t really do cosmology here on Noise to Signal, unless and until someone creates a Large Hadron Collider for mobile devices. (Prediction: when that day comes, it will be on Android first.) But today’s Higgs boson announcement (or, maybe a little more precisely, today’s something-consistent-with-Higgs-boson announcement) is enormous.
Of course, I have to take that on faith, because any explanation of what this really means quickly spirals beyond my comprehension. This is going to be a tough one for the news folks out there to sink their teeth into, beyond variations on “At last, they’ve found something really, really important using something really, really expensive”:
Interviewer: So what have you found?
Scientist: Something consistent with the long-sought-after Higgs boson, a subatomic particle.
Interview: Wow. Just… wow.
(ten seconds of dead air)
Interviewer: Sooooo… what are the practical implications of this?
Scientist: Ah, well, if we assume the universe math math math math math math, then math math math math physics math math math math math math.
Interviewer (hand over the telephone receiver, talking to the producer): Psst! Get me the guy who says the Large Hadron Collider is going to create a black hole and destroy the world.
I’d say our understanding of the universe may well have changed, but really what’s happened is the understanding of the people to whom we’ve delegated our understanding of the universe may well have changed.
Which is still huge.