The Higgs Boson walks into a bar wearing a T-shirt saying “God Particle”.
“Wass that?” asks the barman.
The Higgs Boson almost blinks off. “Where have you been? I am the God Particle. The world is agog with my discovery.”
“You moron. I am the basis of the universe. I am the goddamn base that gives substance to everything else.”
“Substance to what, base what?” The barman is genuinely puzzled. For all he sees is the T-shirt hanging on a black framework of subdued ethereal glow that threatens
to go out and leave the T-shirt hanging in mid-air.
The Higgs Boson sputters, pouts a pout that cannot be seen and orders a round of drinks for all the elements of the period table. The poor barman is bamboozled and
threatens to resign from life.
The jokes edition of the “discovery” of the Higgs Boson is making its rounds on the internet and the laughs are a plenty. Yet, for all the merriment – starting with the
discovery announcement being heralded in Comic Sans font – the seriousness of this discovery cannot be understated. (The Higgs Bososn: Jokes edition can be
found here: http://storify.com/notscientific/higgs-boson-the-jokes-edition)
Here is a particle, predicted over 40 years ago by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, that particle physics says is the basis of the universe. Its entrapment in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN gives us a glimpse on how the universe works.
It is called the God Particle, although scientists themselves would prefer to call it the ‘goddamned particle’ – for the obvious reason that it is the most elusive of any
sub-atomic particle that they have any specific knowledge of. The elemental Stephen Hawking actually bet $100 that the Higgs Boson would never be trapped, so sure he was of its non-existence. This month he conceded defeat and paid up to Gordon Kane of the University of Michigan.
All and good in the rarefied fields of science but what does it mean for the man on the street? Zilch.
The world, or in this case, the universe goes on as before. What scientists have done is tap in another set of information about the way things work – putting firmly in
place a structure of better understanding the processes of the universe. They have come just a little bit closer to understanding why almost all of the universe is beyond
the observations of the likes of you and me.
What this means is:
1. The Universe is a gridwork of mass – 90 percent of which we cannot observe. The little we observe actually forms a minute part of the great mass.
2. Something is forming the base for this huge mass of planets, galaxies, stars and other heavenly bodies and the Higgs Boson could be it.
3. The universe is made of particles which by rights should be free-agents zipping all over the place. Yet something gives them mass and the culprit is seen as the
4. The Higgs Boson has a short life – we are not talking mayflies here. It lasts for one millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. Apparently this is the reason it is so goddamned hard to trap. Evidence of its existence is seen by what it leaves behind in the collider rather than its actual capture.
5. The Higgs field theory explains why some elementary particles have mass – suggesting that a unseen field permeates all of space and the Higgs Boson is the smallest possible activity in that field.
It is easier to understand that an unseen field permeates space – or is it? I just harkback to what the ancients say of this and it makes perfect sense to me.
In explaining the universe, Hindus first talk of its vastness. The root ‘Brh’ means to swell, expand or enlarge. Brahman, accepted by Hindus as the actuality of godhead, the ultimate reality, the absolute, is the basis of the universe. It is the force/power/ energy that permeates the universe, giving it its form and energy.
Originally – when science had just discovered the atom – Brahman was denoted as the vastest of the vast and smallest of the small, in this case the atom.
With the discovery of sub atomic elements and particles, the smallest of the small becomes the sub atomic particles. Now with the discovery of the Higgs Boson, the smallest of the small is, of course, the Higgs Boson.
Right – so I am riding the crest of scientific discovery and adopting it as part of my religion. So, sue me. Big deal.
The fact remains that the ancients knew of the existence of this unseen field upon which the rest of the universe carries out its works.
This from the Upanishads.
1. Brahman is the one Absolute Reality behind the changing appearances of the
2. Brahamis the universal substrate from which material things originate and to
which they return after dissolution.
3. Sarvam khalv idam brahma - Brahman is everything, and all we see are His
different energies — material or spiritual
4. Brahman contains within it the potentiality and archetypes behind all possible
manifest phenomenal forms.
5. Brahman is the reality behind everything in this universe, the cause which
sustains the effect.
6. Brahman is the ultimate essence of material phenomena
So, what does this mean in the grand scheme of things? Again, zilch.
Brahman cannot be worshipped, only understood. Its workings are beyond the ken of man – just like the Higgs Boson. As science strives to understand the Higgs Boson, the followers of Brahman try to do the same. The only difference is that one is material striving, the other spiritual.
Science now appears to know of this particle that imbues others with some potential and is seeking to understand it more. I can’t wait for more. It just validates what I have learnt as a follower of the religions. But most religions are getting defensive over the discovery – finger pointing about science setting out to destroy religion is happening all over the world.
The only thing I can say to that is: “Why would God – the omnipresent, the omniscient and the omnipotent – require to be defended? Especially by the likes of puny humans.”
Leave be – get on with your faith, and leave the faith of science alone. They have done great in making the lives of human better – why not allow them a little fun in making a discovery any Hindu (with a little thinking) already knows?
Or maybe it is just an over-reaction to the nickname. Some see the Higgs Boson’s nickname as the God Particle as a direct attack on faith in God. If the particle had been nicknamed Nick, it may not have aroused so much antipathy amongst the religious.
So, Nick walks into the bar and says “I am Higgs Boson.”. The Barman would probably say: “What are you having, Mr Boson?”
For decades, experts have been trying to come up with analogies to illustrate how the Higgs mechanism works. One of the best-known was proposed in 1993 by David Miller, a physicist at University College London. Imagine looking down from a balcony in a ballroom, watching a cocktail party below. When just plain folks try to go from one end of the room to the other, they can walk through easily, with no resistance from the party crowd. But when a celebrity like Justin Bieber shows up, other partygoers press around him so tightly that he can hardly move ... and once he moves, the crowd moves with him in such a way that the whole group is harder to stop.
The partygoers are like Higgs bosons, the just plain folks are like massless particles, and Bieber is like a massive Z boson.