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God, the ‘God Particle’ and what it all meansPosted: July 7, 2012

Perceptions by Gerry Warner

And now they’ve discovered the ‘God particle,’ according to media headlines that flashed around the world earlier this week.

This supposed particle is believed to have originated during the so-called ‘Big Bang’ that created the universe as well as you and me, or at least me, and tells us everything we need to know to live happily ever after and end the war in Afghanistan.

Now, give me a second to remove tongue from cheek, and I’ll try to treat this announcement with the seriousness I’m sure was intended.

As I understand it, the theory goes roughly like this. At the time of the Big Bang about 12 billion years ago, a God-all-mighty explosion occurred that through evolution led to the creation of everything we know today – matter, gravity, mass and bad hair days.

All the elements were created at this time too, but unfortunately a few known as ‘sub-particles’ are still missing, a sort of ‘Where’s Waldo’ mystery. Now if there’s anything a physicist hates it’s a missing particle because it’s like a lost piece of a puzzle which is necessary to make the puzzle complete. So for years physicists have been searching for these missing pieces by smashing atoms at the giant underground Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Most of the missing sub-particles were found this way including photons and muons and I won’t even attempt to explain what they are.

Anyway, they couldn’t find one very stubborn sub-particle known as the Higgs Boson, named after British physicist Peter Higgs, who’s a pretty stubborn fellow himself. As far back as 1964, Higgs and his colleagues at Edinburgh University have been trying to figure out how particles gain mass. To physicists, apparently, this is a cosmic riddle while a dummy like me would just assume an object has mass or it wouldn’t exist. I guess that’s why Higgs is a physicist and I’m a mere scribbler.

But medieval views like this don’t cut it for Higgs, who after years of researching the matter, postulated that particles gain mass by interacting with a medium, or Higgs field, made up of unseen particles called bosons. What’s a boson? I’m not even going to go there.

But this is where it gets really wild because Higgs, and many other physicists, believe that this invisible boson field makes up 96 per cent of the universe  and that we can only see about four per cent of all the matter that’s out there. This leads to theories about unseen entities like black holes, dark matter and parallel universes to which I can’t help but think:   “Oh my God. Stop the bus. I want to get off.”

I admit I’m one of the many who couldn’t get to the end of ‘A Brief History of Time,’ a book 30 years ago by Stephen Hawking, who’s supposed to be the greatest living physicist since Albert Einstein, and along with many other physicists, working on something called ‘A Grand Theory of  Everything,’ a supposed physics theory that will explain how everything works including the results of experiments before they are even performed.

Don’t hold your breath.

Remember it was Einstein’s famous theory that led to the first atomic bomb and the many other weapons of mass destruction that are such a tragic feature of world civilization today. Don’t get me wrong. Einstein didn’t make the first nuclear weapon or the many destructive variations of it that have followed since. Science is neutral as scientists constantly proclaim and it’s the imperfect human race that constantly subverts science to evil ends.

So even if they discover the Grand Theory of Everything some day, I’m a tad pessimistic that it will really do much to create a better world or a kinder and gentler human race. We may finally complete the Periodic Table of Elements including the sub particles, but will it do anything to advance civilization, improve the environment, build tolerance and understanding, substitute love for hate or replace ignorance with empathy?

I’m not a particularly religious person in the conventional sense, but when contemplating all the foregoing wrongs in the world I can’t help but think the Bible’s 10 Commandments or the teachings of other Great Religions might do more for the woes of the world than any putative scientific theory.

And who said irony was dead?


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