The CERN Hadron Collider may soon find out, and Jared Burton directed me to an interesting article about it. (And David Bowie may have gotten there first.)
But in any case, according to the New York Times yesterday, two prominent physicists have a time travel theory as to why the CERN Hadron Collider is having a bit of a jinxed start: nature abhors not just vacuums, but Higgs bosons, and nature is thus mysteriously reaching back in time to prevent their creation by the new particle collider:
A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists [Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan] 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.
And what is a Higgs boson? According to the article, “the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.” In other words, the Higgs is the father (or grandfather) of mass. And so the metaphor (as used in the New York Times article) doesn’t quite work, does it? It’s the grandpa of mass (the Higgs boson) stepping back in time to stop its massive children from returning the favor of creation by evoking the Higgs boson. Grandpa Higgs, it seems, wants to stay in the paternal position:
“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”
God? God is preventing something from happening that would be bad for his creation? Hmm. Makes you wonder where he was during the Holocaust. In any case, the article goes on to say that:
While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus. Although just why the Higgs would be a catastrophe is not clear.
And they even have a means for testing the theory:
Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Ninomiya have proposed a kind of test: that CERN engage in a game of chance, a “card-drawing” exercise using perhaps a random-number generator, in order to discern bad luck from the future. If the outcome was sufficiently unlikely, say drawing the one spade in a deck with 100 million hearts, the machine would either not run at all, or only at low energies unlikely to find the Higgs.
Here’s how the proposed experiment was characterized by a physics editor at New Scientist:
Even more fun is Nielsen and Ninomiya’s suggestion of how their theory might be tested: with a card game. First, take a million or so cards, each scribbled with a future fate for the LHC. Make them overwhelmingly read “carry on”, but add just one or two saying “shut the thing down”. If you pull one of the “shut down” ones at random, you have pretty good proof that the Higgs is trying to tell you something from the future. I don’t know what happens if you disobey the warning: perhaps that’s where the thing with the black holes that eat the world come in.
Why not just use a Ouija board?
And I just had another thought about this. Are the physicists implying that we (if the quantum wave function does not collapse) are living in a universe in which Higgs particles are not produced (and so destroy our Earth)? In other words, are our consciousnesses following only those universes where there is still, well, ongoing human existence?
Thanks Jared, for the interesting link! I’m not sure I understand it (in fact, I’m absolutely certain that I don’t!), but it is, without a doubt, worth trying to understand.
Here’s some more help:
And here’s still more help:
Oops! The second YouTube doesn’t embed. Watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Fg16j5hbvY&NR=1&feature=fvwp