Every once in a while, I come across an example of science writing (meaning, explaining scientific concepts in layperson terms) that is a credit to the genre. Here is one from New York Times reporter Dennis Overbye, explaining the Higgs boson particle:
According to the Standard Model, the Higgs boson is the only manifestation of an invisible force field, a cosmic molasses that permeates space and imbues elementary particles with mass. Particles wading through the field gain heft the way a bill going through Congress attracts riders and amendments, becoming ever more ponderous.
In related (and also humorous) news, I learned that the physicists at CERN do not call it the God particle. They call it the “goddamned hard to find particle.” Sounds like typical science humor to me. In reality, though, this particle (or the newly discovered particle that the CERN folks are thinking/hoping is the Higgs boson) showed up relatively quickly once the LHD was up and running:
Wednesday’s announcement was also an impressive opening act for the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest physics machine, which cost $10 billion to build and began operating only two years ago. It is still running at only half-power.
Wonder what’s waiting around the corner when that sucker gets fired up to full power?
This much-anticipated announcement from CERN has impacted a handful of people in a particularly profound way. As Overbye notes:
Up until last weekend, physicists at the agency were saying that they themselves did not know what the outcome would be. Expectations soared when it was learned that the five surviving originators of the Higgs boson theory had been invited to the CERN news conference.
One of those was Dr. Higgs.
Asked to comment after the announcements, Dr. Higgs seemed overwhelmed. “For me, it’s really an incredible thing that’s happened in my lifetime,” he said.
He and the other five theorized the existence of the Higgs boson in 1964 — 48 years ago. Now that is some delayed gratification…and one hell of a good day at work.