I’m no theoretical physicist, but I was a member of the institutional science community. My particular bullshit field was “artificial intelligence,” but in the modern university, bullshit fields abound–sometimes with legitimate scientific endeavors buried within, or as an umbrella above, the bullshit.
I predict that large tracts of present-day physics research will be revealed as an exercise in mathematical masturbation–a sort of ueber-complex sudoku puzzle that only .001% of humanity has the intellect and training to attempt solving. The sudoku metaphor can be extended to include the relevance of the solution to our questions about the nature of reality.
I’ll admit, I don’t have the mathematical chops to follow, replicate, or disprove the work of theoretical physicists. My skepticism of their work stems from more primary methodological concerns. Of primary concern is the lack of testable hypotheses–a feature found also in rank mysticism.
and then there’s this:
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. (NY Times 10/12/09)
One of the two pysicists is Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen. You probably recognize from his famous proposal that the Veneziano model was actually a theory of strings*. A distinguished physicist indeed.
Nielson along with Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto (less famous–doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry) propose that Higgs boson particles created by scientists in the future, travel backwards through time to prevent scientists in the present from discovering them.
Now I’m the first to sympathize with scientists forced to use metaphor. Communicating an absurdly complicated topic to an untrained public is challenging. I’m also sympathetic to the problem of the media in relating these metaphors to the public: how literal are they meant to be taken? Is the cat *really* alive and dead at the same time? Is space *actually* a rubber matt displaced by bowling balls? And so forth.
But, as far as I can tell, the Terminator metaphor above is meant to be taken literally. Just substitute Higgs boson for Arnold, and anything-to-do-with-discovering-Higgs-boson for Sarah Connor.
The list of things sabotage possibly engineered by Higgs: the cancellation of the planned Superconducting Supercollider in the US in 1993, the various mechanical problems of the Large Hadron Collider, and the arrest of a resident physicist on suspcion of Al-Qaeda affiliation.
Of course, thinking like scientists, they’ve come up with a plan–a peer reviewed, up-for-publication-in-a-real-journal plan. It goes a little something like this:
- Create a deck of 1 million cards.
- Write “Procede” on 999,999 of the cards.
- Write “STOP” on 1 card.
- Draw a card.
If the card says “STOP,” then it supports the claim that Higgs boson(s) are emanating from the future to stop scientists from creating them, and we should design more experiments so that Higgs, from the future, can tell scientists how they should proceed with their experiments.
I think it’s a great experiment, but I would go the additional step of not including the “STOP” card. That would really cinch it. As a “real time” way you provide Higgs input on HLC activity, you could have a grad students continuously flipping coins. If one of them comes up heads one million times in a row then we know Higgs thinks we’re going too far. Or, with nearly the same degree of scientific rigor, we could have a seance. I’m willing to be the conduit through which the Higgs boson can make its will known to our world.
*I had no idea who he was either.
**Since it would cost, like, a billionth as much as their other bullshit experiments, why haven’t they done it?