I’m a hopeless science weenie, as evidenced by my daily reading of the National Science Foundation’s e-newsletter. But I’m also an English major, and a little at sea among subatomic particles and such. It’s all dark matter to me. I try to keep up, despite my limitations, so I jumped on the post “Higgs Boson in plain English, and why it’s so important.” It even included an animated comic book explanation video. Now this is my kind of science.
Except that plain English doesn’t have to make plain sense. Consider, for example, the doctrine of the Trinity, or transubstantiation. For those of you who have been busy eating carbonized meat and potato chips, drinking adult beverages, and touching off fireworks for the last couple days, scientists at CERN in Switzerland have produced evidence for the existence of the long-sought theoretical particle, the Higgs boson, that would explain why things have mass. (Consider the alternative!)
The cartoon characters say that in the large hadron collider at CERN–which produced (almost for sure) the Higgs Boson–what you put into it doesn’t make any difference to what comes out. As long as you have enough energy, you can create any particle that requires that much energy or less. The Higgs Boson took a really big bunch of energy, and is a big deal, because the so-called standard model in physics (used for the last couple of decades) requires it to exist in order for everything else to work. No pressure.
But the cartoon guys keep posing and not answering questions: What is mass? We don’t know. How many types of subatomic particles are there? We don’t know. What do these leftover particles over in the corner here do? We don’t know. But the existence of the Higgs boson would be one more thing that we do know, saving the bacon for the standard model.
And the standard model, of course, explains everything–everything except gravitation, that is. Then there is dark energy, and dark matter. And let’s not forget the nature of time, and the nature of consciousness. Put some thought into a large idea collider, spin it up real fast, and see if any plain English comes out.