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The LHC, the Higgs Boson, and the Chicago Cubs 194

Following up our earlier discussion of the theory that the Higgs boson might time-travel to avoid being found, reader gpronger notes an interview with MIT (and LHC) physicist Steven Nahn, in which he comments on Nielsen and Ninomiya's unlikely-sounding theory. "The premise is fairly crazy, but many things in physics are constructed that way... The difference here is that... previous 'crazy' ideas gave consequences that were clearly testable and attestable to the new nature of the theory, in an objective manner, and involved the behavior of inanimate objects (i.e., not humans). However, in this case, the consequences seem quite contrived... Exactly in line with their argument, I could say that Nature abhors the Chicago Cubs, such that the theory which describes the evolution of our universe prescribed Steve Bartman to interfere on October 14, 2003, extending the 'bad luck' of the Cubbies."
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The LHC, the Higgs Boson, and the Chicago Cubs

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  • by physburn ( 1095481 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:13AM (#29819281) Homepage Journal
    Surprisingly many respectable physicists talking, about this dumb nature abores the Higgs theory. You see there all very excited about the relaunch of the LHC, about finally finding the Higgs, super-symmetric particles, or maybe something new, that there hyping it up. They need it to, without a bit of public excitement, the enormous amounts of money needed for each big generation of collider, aren't going to get spent.

    Hope the LHC finds something, and something mysterious and exacting. If nothing governments are very unlikely to fund a 100 billion for a 100 TeV collider. (that would be very strange, the Standard model need some new physics before about 10TeV, to stablise the masses of the W,Z particles).


    LHC [] Feed @ Feed Distiller []

  • by VinylRecords ( 1292374 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:36AM (#29819447) [] [] [] [] []

    Osama Bin Laden is safer walking down the streets of New York City than Steve Bartman is walking down the streets of Chicago.

  • by Ryvar ( 122400 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:45AM (#29819503) Homepage

    This whole 'theory' really just sounds like an application of the Novikov Self-Consistency Conjecture [] to particle physics. The short version is: the probability of events which could lead to a violation of causality is zero. So, according to this conjecture if the manifestation or observation of the Higgs Boson eventually lead us to develop technology with which we might otherwise violate causality, we'll never discover it.

    I can think of at least one way it might - the Higgs Boson is critical to our understanding gravity. We know from relativity that there are certain gravitric structures which might potentially lead to violations of causality. One example is a toroidal singularity, spun extremely fast, which theoretically generates stable artificial wormhole along the axis of the spin with an opening small enough to fire, say, an x-ray laser through. A signal sent through such a wormhole and then back again could lead to extremely clear-cut violations of causality.

    Thus, if the Novikov Self-Consistency Conjecture is correct, the discovery of anything capable of allowing us to engage in large scale gravity manipulation of this sort might well have zero probability of ever occurring.

    I don't really believe this is what's going onhere , but given the abject failure of every experiment that might lead us to real, large-scale gravity manipulation (I'm thinking of that experiment where extremely fine measurements of lasers fired down long tubes buried under the ground were supposed to be used to detect gravity waves), it's a neat idea.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @12:51AM (#29819535)

    If people could travel in time, the universe would become unstable. People would keep going back and changing history which would result in those same people not going back and changing history ...

    If the universe is going to be stable (which it seems to be) in the face of time travel (by particles or people) there must be a mechanism that keeps it stable. If it looks to us like the Boson going back and sabotaging the LHC ...

  • Re:Time will tell (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @01:45AM (#29819833)

    Wouldn't a highly improbable event like a meteor hitting the LHC itself create a high probability that something is amiss with the universe? I suspect the stronger the improbability of the failure event, the more probable it would appear that the universe is indeed attempting to prevent something. Wouldn't this indirectly assign a probability to the existence of the Higgs boson? That is, wouldn't the universe, by openly trying to obstruct investigation, reveal by that obstruction the existence of exactly what it is trying to hide?

    It follows that only obstacles that are likely in the ordinary course of events can stand in the way of the LHC team; unlikely obstacles would become evidence for what the universe is hiding. Thus coolant leaks or metal stress or funding issues can arise, but not meteors.

    The notion of a conspiratorial universe also thus precludes the possibility of science taking that same notion seriously: if we really thought the universe were preventing this discovery, we'd have evidence for the existence of the Higgs boson; thus the "theory" (which can't be a scientific theory) itself must be discredited in order to be true.

    This is the same sort of thinking that leads people to believe that a shadow conspiracy killed JFK to prevent Obama from being born on the moon, which we never reached.

  • Re:Well (Score:4, Interesting)

    by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @03:52AM (#29820397) Homepage
    Yes, very good point. If something really unlikely happens, we should have a good unlikely explanation ready. It's good we are starting now, so we can be ready when something really unlikely happens.
  • Surprisingly many respectable physicists talking, about this dumb nature abores the Higgs theory.

    Its becoming a hallmark of theoretical physics. Underproducing and over-respected scholars prattling on about any nonsense they can dress up in sophistic argument.

    Theoretical physics has produced essentially no results for 40 years. Even when faced with outright contradictions of the standard model, i.e. neutrino mass, they do little but concoct the same convoluted models that lead to nowhere. String theory is the prime example of this, but things like loop quantum gravity and dark matter are no less terminal. For four decades physicists have produced theories that raise only more questions and don't answer anything.

    In light of this, it's easy to see why nonsense such as the multi-verse, the anthropic principle, and of course this travesty come out of the mouths of men and women who are tired of seeing their more rigorous efforts achieve little and less. By proposing these theories, they can reach virtually the same results and conclusion they otherwise would (i.e nothing of value), yet need expend only a fraction of the effort. PLus, by dressing it all up even a little, they can wow the odd committee and perhaps get a bit more funding.

    Meanwhile, despite the odds against it, science moves on.

  • by Interoperable ( 1651953 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @09:45AM (#29822681)

    Surprisingly many respectable physicists talking

    Which physicists and who are they talking to? What makes it into the news isn't an accurate representation of the work that's being done by those who work in the field. The small, interesting discoveries don't get reported on by the media; it's the crazy theories and cool ideas that get coverage. I can guarantee you that most of the work work being done at CERN is mind-numbingly boring as far as the general population is concerned, but it's very good work.

    Don't mistake entertaining musings and fun thought experiments as being the opinion of the lead researchers. It may be the musings that are reported on but it's the research that runs the accelerator.

  • by lennier ( 44736 ) on Wednesday October 21, 2009 @06:54PM (#29829889) Homepage

    "Theoretical physics has produced essentially no results for 40 years."

    Indeed. It's actually rather strange when you step back and look at it.

    Newton gave us calculus, mechanics and kick-started the industrial revolution.

    Maxwell in the 1860s produced a rich field of practical applications that we're still mining today.

    Radioactivity and atomic theory in the late 1800s produced, well, very large bombs and power reactors which don't *always* kill people nastily. And a whole bunch of paradoxical complications which were 'solved' one by one in an ad-hoc manner leading to quantum mechanics.

    Special relativity linked Maxwell and Newton and is used in a lot of engineering.

    General relativity made gravitational maths vastly harder, predicted Mercury's precession and gravitational lensing (after a bit of fudging of the data), created cosmology which has no practical applications, led to Unified Field theory which... didn't work at all... and.... um. We'll get back to you in a billion years! Because that's the timescales it operates on! But it's useful, honest!

    Quantum electrodynamics sorta-kinda linked SR and quantum mechanics, made the behaviour of light darn near impossible to think intuitively about, but seems to have led to useful results in microelectronics.

    Quantum chromodynamics.... explains the results of collider experiments.... and.... well, because quarks don't exist unbound, there aren't any practical applications of that knowledge at all. But we need to build bigger colliders to generate more data to hand-tune our theory which explains the results of collider experiments. So we can tune our theory more. It's all useful, honest!

    String theory... produces string theory, which produces string theory, which produces books complaining about string theory. It's useful, honest!

    Even fun stuff like Bose-Einstein condensates are all using maths which dates back to the 1930s.

    Post-1970s *engineering* has done amazing things applying and confirming existing theoretical models. But post-1970s theory doesn't seem to have gone anywhere. Isn't that odd? We had this huge Cambrian explosion in the 1800s to 1930s... then the tap just sort of dried up.

    What's disturbing is not that post-1970 theory hasn't seemed to lead us anywhere, but that theoretical consensus has converged more and more on a deep pessimism about seeing any revolutionary changes. In the 1930s, the general air in physics seemed to be 'is your idea crazy enough to be true?' So we got science fiction. Now, it's 'ennh, there's a good reason why for any interesting X, we'll never be able to do that - Einstein/Feynman/Bohr deny it. Gravity control or cold fusion are only for crackpots. But give us billions for a new collider/tokamak anyway, just to prove that we can't do it. And stop bugging us for your jetpack, you'll never understand the maths anyway. Oh, and it's all useful, honest!'

    Our best technology showpieces are still 1930s theory with 2000s engineering.

    Something is wrong with this picture.

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