Thursday, February 9, 2012


That's a photograph of a "God Particle." If you have any room in your brain for a new concept, it may be a way to find out if God exists

Next to John Cullum, my husband's side of the bed, there's a book by Stephen Hawking, a bible, and this magazine picture. He's fascinated by religion, "black holes" and this latest new theory.

Einstein's relativity, the Fourth Dimension, speed of light, black holes, and gravity are not my cup of tea.

I remember Newton and the apple, but what is "matter," why do things have "mass," why does "matter" have gravity -- when JC's talking about "particles," I find myself blinking -- not bored, but not sure what we're talking about.

I can chat about who's winning in sports, but except for the Green Bay Packers, and Roger Federer, it doesn't excite me. I don't know why "matter" is such an important issue, so I went on a Googling adventure.

It was THE Issue at a get-together in the packed auditorium at the Cern laboratory outside Geneva. The Lab houses the large Hadron Collider.

At the center bottom of this picture, you can see a tiny figure (it's in a dark jacket, brown pants), and get a sense of the size of the machine that is the world's most powerful particle accelerator.

It's mammoth. The Hadron Collider sends subatomic protons (smaller ones) racing in opposite directions through a 17-mile tunnel, getting them to move faster and faster until, at nearly the speed of light, they collide head on -- bang-crash-boom -- smash together.

The impact vaporizes the particles into tiny fireballs of pure energy. The scientists in charge of this say they have, with this process, re-created the conditions of the first moments after the Big Bang. Each collision is a mini Big Bang" creating so many particles that decay into many-many other particles. But one particle -- the one that Peter Higgs, top scientist at the University of Edinburgh, saw, noted, measured, and photographed occurs at the same place with each test.

It's called the "Higgs Boson." In particle physics "boson" is a rarely used term that, means particle. (My husband pronounced it "bow son" -- is that southern politeness? Maybe it's booson --sort of like a woman's chest?)

Anyway, It's a huge discovery. It's been seen by a second team that referred to the Higgs boson as "The God particle."

It needs to be proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this "boson always appears in the same space, same time. To me, reading through a mountain of technical descriptions, it sounded like much ado over nothing, but a particle, according to Hawking, is probably what created the world.

The woman who heads a third team, Fabiola Gianotti, said, "We cannot conclude anything at this stage. We need four times as much data."

Getting sufficient data requires many thousands of fireballs, and the giant accelerator will need another year or more to crank all of them out and allow Gianotti and her colleagues to announce whether or not they've proved the Higgs Boson.

Gee, if it's proved, does it prove God created the world? Did God create all the the other fantastical things that scientists can't really explain?

I'm not ready to debate any of this with bible-Hawking-book-reader-husband JC. But I'm not blinking, wondering what the fuss is about.

Now that you've read what irreligious Em has gleaned, here's a educated scientist summarizing what I've explained.

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