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The LHC, the Higgs Boson, and Fate 691

Reader Maximum Prophet sends a piece from the NY Times by the usually reliable Dennis Overbye reporting on a "crazy" theory being worked up by a pair of "otherwise distinguished physicists": that the Large Hadron Collider's difficulties may be due to the universe's reluctance to produce a Higgs boson. Maximum Prophet adds, "This happened to the Superconducting Super Collider in the science fiction story Einstein's Bridge. Now Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, are theorizing that it's happening in real life." "I'm talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather."
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The LHC, the Higgs Boson, and Fate

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  • Einstein's Bridge (Score:3, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @02:55PM (#29735163) Journal

    Now THAT is a book I'd like to see made into a movie. Put some of the "science" back in Science Fiction.

  • by FlyingBishop ( 1293238 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:00PM (#29735227)

    No, I think the theory is that a universe in which we create a Higgs boson is impossible, because such a universe would not only cease to be, but cease to have ever been as soon as the boson appears.

  • Almost... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:02PM (#29735261)

    This theory actually kind of makes sense to me... almost.

    If the universe were indeed so much more complex than we imagined (which I fully believe is possible) that something like this could happen, I still don't think it would happen this way - that the future universe is coming back in time, just to break some magnets. Nature is rarely so subtle.

    I do believe in the possibility of multiverse theory being correct, which also allows me to believe in some form of time travel, but a more natural extension of this all is that the particles created in the future tear a hole in time-space and destroy the collision center of the machine, not some magnets around the edge (unless an accidental collision occurred elsewhere, i suppose).

    Plus, I've never figured out if time-space would follow the earth in its orbit, or if these things would just happen out in space somewhere, at the spot in orbit the earth was going to be at.

    I really hope this is kind of correct, or the universe would be a much less interesting place. I fear that one day we'll figure everything about this stuff out, and that it won't be a magical world of multiverses and time travel.

  • Re:Boson in time (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SlashDotDotDot ( 1356809 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:03PM (#29735285) Journal

    if this is true, it's either scary or wonderful!

    Why choose just one?

  • by ttimes ( 534696 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:04PM (#29735289)
    ...but did you notice no one mentioned that it is simply hard to create the conditions necessary to detect the Higgs boson? We too quickly opt for the sci-fi answer and though the idea of time based sabotage is fun, it makes for a better movie than it does an answer. And how was such a conjecture published without data or peer review? Nothing to see here, next particle please...
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:05PM (#29735307)

    [quote]the Large Hadron Collider's difficulties may be due to the universe's reluctance to produce a Higgs boson[/quote]

    Let's apply Occam's Razor. One of two cases must be true, either:
    (a) "the Large Hadron Collider's difficulties may be due to the universe's reluctance to produce a Higgs boson"
    (b) building a machine like this is rather complicated and it might take a few goes before they get it right.

    Of course, there could be an option (c) they really suck. I'll try that on my boss the next time I fuck something up. "No, see, it's not that I'm not any good at my job, it's that the universe is conspiring against the proper completion of the project. Have I ever mentioned Schroedinger's Cat?"

  • Re:Kdawson story (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Facegarden ( 967477 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:05PM (#29735317)

    Kdawson's name is on this, why am I not surprised. I don't mean to troll, but wow does that editor have some interesting stories to his/her name. I mean honestly, a bonified, "time travel is killing the LHC", story?

    Actually you kind of are trolling, because that's not what this article is. This is not a "time travel is doing something" article, it's a "two otherwise respectable scientists are saying something pretty crazy" article. And that is notable, because that does not normally happen.

  • Re:Almost... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by notgm ( 1069012 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:07PM (#29735343)

    i brought this up before, and was shouted down a little bit.

    i think it's less like the future leaking back to prevent the present, and more like the present just isn't capable of reaching the future we expect.

    it's like the first time you ever put two little toy magnets together, north pole to north pole. not really knowing anything about them, you think they might stay, but one flips as soon as you take away your hand. try as you might, there is no way for you, as a child, to keep them together effectively. eventually you give up and walk away. your present can't reach a future in which the magnets stay aligned in a way which you desire.

  • Re:To say... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gordguide ( 307383 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:10PM (#29735385)

    " ... [To say] that the Higgs boson is abhorrent to Nature is ridiculous. ..."

    Of course it is. Being ridiculous is the absolute minimum required of anything worthy of study by Physicists; when it is no longer ridiculous it ascends to theory.

  • Re:Perfect... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DdJ ( 10790 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:15PM (#29735437) Homepage Journal

    Actually, if you go ahead and tell your wife that, it may just be that one of your descendants would just be so abhorrent that the universe decided you should not be allowed to breed, and this is the method it's using to enforce that.

  • Re:Almost... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:15PM (#29735441) Homepage

    No, it's just the guys running the simulation don't have any code to handle what we're doing with the LHC, so they keep tweaking things to break it while they work on a patch.

  • Re:Could happen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:17PM (#29735455)

    If information theory wants to stop us from observing a higgs boson then we won't be able to observe it in the experiment. What won't happen is that every time we try to test it some mechanical component breaks down. That's ridiculous.

  • Superstition (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:23PM (#29735525) Journal

    I have to point out that this is merely superstitious thought; there is no evidence to indicate that this is the reason why the collider failed, and while the theory *is* possible, it defies rationality. The simplest/most obvious explanation is the the collider simply failed due to technical reasons due to flaws in design or construction. Anyone could tell you that. Saying that it didn't happen because the Universe simply didn't allow it is the same as if you just substituted "God" for the word "Universe." Why didn't X happen? God didn't allow it. Why did Y happen? God made it happen. I'm not saying that it's wrong to believe in God, but these "explanations" are really non-explanations.

  • by ianm.phil ( 1140173 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:26PM (#29735591)

    This is ridiculous and not worthy of any publication, let alone the NYT (and should not be propagated on slashdot, imho).

    In short, the Higgs boson (if theories are correct) is a scalar that provides mass to all particles. That means it is present at all times everywhere. So, although it is tongue in cheek, we are swimming in an invisible soup of Higgs particles at each moment. To say that universe doesn't want us to create one is like saying people are born blind because the universe didn't want us to experience light.

  • Re:Could happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:28PM (#29735619) Journal

    You are not even really "you" in any sense beyond the illusory narrative created by the mind, to order its disparate sensations.

    That depends very much by what you mean by "illusion", and what you mean by "you". If I identify myself as this particular chunk of matter in the state it is at the moment, then yes, I am me.

    It's like describing a program as an illusion. In the sense that it abstract, perhaps. But it does have real, physical consequences -- at the very least, the color of the pixels on your screen (or which ones are lit by how much, if you want to be pedantic).

    Black hole? Maths say they exist - but you will never really know... Reality is so totally comprehensive that all of imagination is an infinitesimal subset.

    Perhaps. What is your evidence for this?

    It seems to me that we are refining our understanding of reality, but the subset which we do understand, we understand fairly well. It has been a very long time since we've been truly and profoundly wrong -- and even then, we weren't.

    For example: It was once believed that the earth is flat. But even this is not particularly wrong. On the scales most of us deal with in day-to-day life, a flat earth is a good approximation.

    It was once believed that the sun revolved around the earth. This is still a good approximation, for most purposes here on the ground. It is only when we begin to consider the motion of other planets that it becomes important which is which.

    People often point to Newton being "disproved" by Einstein, as a way to show how "unreliable" modern science is -- usually in an effort to promote some non-science, such as religion or "Intelligent Design". What they miss is that Einstein was, for all practical purposes, a refinement of Newton -- the Newtonian equations are at the core of the relativistic ones, and most of the time, we still use Newtonian physics, because it's still a good approximation and is easier to calculate.

    So while I agree that there is always more to understand, we shouldn't pretend we know nothing simply because we don't know everything.

    So, going back to what you've said here:

    Black hole? Maths say they exist - but you will never really know,

    In the sense that I can "really know" anything beyond the internal consistency of mathematical and logical systems, I can know that black holes exist, until a better explanation comes along. And as I've shown, that "better explanation" probably won't look that different than the one we have now.

    For example, it is possible that we are wrong about what the singularity of a black hole looks like. But it seems unlikely that anything would ever make its way back out -- and if it did, it probably would not come back the way it went in. Even if black holes were shown to be an entirely different phenomenon, it seems unlikely we'd show that it isn't somehow swallowing up matter, energy, even light.

  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:45PM (#29735875) Homepage

    There's no C in SyFy. Or I/Q, for that matter.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:47PM (#29735885)

    But the test device requires 50 million cats. Where are we gonna get 50 million cats?

    Have you seen how rapidly feral cats breed?

    The problem isn't getting 50 million cats, its getting 50 million cats into the test device. Producing cats is easy -- they take care of that themselves quite well. Herding, on the other hand...

  • by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:55PM (#29736003)
    That misinterprets the theory, by falling for the news author's anthropomorphism on the universe. The theory isn't that the universe is actually a conscious being that throws a wrench in the works and makes the LHC break just in the nick of time. The theory really is that in every multiverse where the LHC works correctly, the multiverse is destroyed by the abominable bosons. We are all riding through a series of universes in which the LHC repeatedly fails to work. At each point where a quantum event occurs which eventually leads to the LHC either working or failing, the universe splits and our consciousness follows the branch where the LHC fails, because existence is extinguished in the other branch. Is this somehow more solidly believable than the author's "sentient universe messing with stuff" explanation? Probably not.
  • Re:Personal ripple (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:55PM (#29736015)

    Maybe this is the reason why i was never able to finished University , the effect on the universe would have been catastrohpic !

    Or maybe it's just because your English skills suck.

  • by Tarsir ( 1175373 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @03:59PM (#29736093)
    Occam's Razor does not mean that the simplest explanation is true, or even likely to be true. Occam's Razor is about parsimony of belief. Given two theories:

    1. LHC doesn't work because some of it's many many components malfunction
    2. LHC doesn't work because some of it's many many components malfunction because its future is reaching back in time, causing it to malfunction

    We choose to belief the first, rather than the second, because the second theory introduces an additional term that adds nothing to the theory. Put another way, at the moment we have evidence that the LHC is malfunctioning, but no evidence that it is malfunctioning due to bizarre backwards causality.

    The formulation of Occam's Razor with which you are familiar, no doubt from watching (or reading) Contact, is "All things being equal, the simplest solution is explanation tends to be right". In this case, simpler means 'having no unnecessary terms'. It does not refer to how credible you find one explanation or another.
  • by zmooc ( 33175 ) <zmooc&zmooc,net> on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:04PM (#29736153) Homepage

    It's the other way around. The universe "does" nothing. It merely prevents certain scenario's from happening. You might think of the current situation as one of infinitely many parallel universes. That we're currently slashdotting in the one were those magnets happened to fail, does not mean that that is the only scenario happening, it merely means that we happen to be in that universe, in that timeline. In other timelines they're probably discussing why a meterorite happened fall exactly on the LHC;-)

  • by Xeleema ( 453073 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:10PM (#29736249) Homepage Journal
    I am truly humbled by your words, StikyPad. We cannot permit your wisdom to be restrained any longer! You must go to that Siren that has ensnared you, and proudely proclaim that you will once again wander the Earth, for the Slashdotters need your words! (And if she likes, she can tag along, but it's Fast Food from here on out.)
  • by rAiNsT0rm ( 877553 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @04:17PM (#29736343) Homepage

    Awesome! Great stuff, and don't worry I once wrote a followup to Morte d'Arthur perfectly in the style of the original on which I received a C- for parts where my grammar and structure matched the original work but apparently were "incorrect" to the teacher... and then I won a National English Merit award for the same work when the teacher's assistant submitted it because she dug it. Grade never got changed.

  • Re:Could happen (Score:3, Insightful)

    by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @05:32PM (#29737555) Homepage

    And perhaps even larger is the sum of the solution spaces in which their are no humans to build the thing at all.

  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @06:27PM (#29738361)

    "The theory really is that in every multiverse where the LHC works correctly, the multiverse is destroyed by the abominable bosons. We are all riding through a series of universes in which the LHC repeatedly fails to work."

    But that semi-sophistry could apply to any conservation law or forbidden transition:

    Put on your spooky voice and say "The creation of a particle in a configuration which violated conservation of momentum would cause such a Disturbance In the Force that it would wipe out the whole of the Universe, so we are sailing in a sea of universes selected from the Master Multiverse for which only momentum-conserving outcomes just happened to take place".

    More reasonably, physicists say, "Some transitions are forbidden due to conservation laws" and there are observable consequences. This is normal physics.

    Would the present hypothetical Higgs case be any different?

  • Re:Could happen (Score:2, Insightful)

    by yurtinus ( 1590157 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @06:29PM (#29738393)
    This all sounds super deep and meaningful and all quantumy, but does anybody s'pose that it fails so much because it's just a big damn machine built by hundreds of contractors, many of which will be impressed if it works at all?
  • by sincewhen ( 640526 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @09:57PM (#29740129)
    But unfortunately the experiment goes...

    Step1. Obtain a working Large Hadron Collider...

  • Re:Quantum Suidice (Score:2, Insightful)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Tuesday October 13, 2009 @10:55PM (#29740545) Journal

    It's nice seeing the mass of physicists coming around to the simple concepts [] I learned at Uncle Bob []'s knee oh so many decades ago. With a little refinement they may yet advance to pantheistic solipsism [] - I see it mentioned there, but not prominently.

  • Get a grip (Score:5, Insightful)

    by syousef ( 465911 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @12:18AM (#29741059) Journal

    It was completely over the top for humour value. No one is taking this seriously. No one in their right mind anyway. So there's no secret agenda to oppress women here.

    The same women that complain about these jokes as being sexist usually have no problem with jokes about men. Get a grip. I'm a fat guy but I still laugh at some fat jokes. It's called having a sense of humour.

  • by Walkingshark ( 711886 ) on Wednesday October 14, 2009 @05:27AM (#29742353) Homepage

    You realize, of course, that if this is the case then you will never die unless there is no possible universe in which you could continue existing.

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.