7 Ridiculous Things People Believe About the 'God Particle'
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"Columnist" sounds so much nicer than "Extremely Failed Test Result."
Scientists at CERN recently announced the discovery of a Higgs-like particle, the culmination of decades of genius, but there's an empty spot in our cocktail cabinet, so we figured we'd scoop their Nobel Prize. Because we've already found a practical application for it. Interaction with the Higgs field is what gives particles mass; therefore, there will be more Higgs interactions near denser objects, so we can use Higgs particles as a tricorder for finding thick-skulled idiots. Our new system is already working: Scanning a spectrum from the New York Times through Twitter to the Daily Mail, the Higgs announcement has revealed thousands of idiots all over the world!
In 1989, CERN invented the World Wide Web to transmit important information between smart people, and the world has been using it for the exact opposite ever since. On July 4, 2012, CERN announced what could be the smallest unit of anything that could really matter, and idiots on Twitter immediately obsessed about something even smaller.
When God said, let there be light, these guys complained about the wattage.
A literally reality-defining discovery, and they were whining about the Comic Sans font. You couldn't miss the scientific point more painfully if you assumed Erinaceidae were spheres.
"Shoving this into my underpants approximately shouldn't hurt."
It would be cruel to say that they picked on the font because it was the only part of the presentation they understood, so I'll say that, because that's exactly what happened. The scientists had just used a machine that makes the Saturn V moon rocket look like a sparkler to interrogate reality itself, and these dumbasses were trying to look superior because they prefer letters with curly bits at the ends.
You have to understand the whole page before you're allowed to complain about any of it.
When someone announces a new fundamental particle, they could write their results in eight pints of warm human blood and the species would still be better off for the trade. They might have just completed the Standard Model of understanding existence. If you're trying to trump that with typography, you'd be better off using your special skill against Batman, because at least then you'd entertain a few people while humiliating yourself in public.
"Looks like they tried to be comic sans intelligence!"
"What's the Point?"
When smart people announce an understanding of the basis of reality, the other kind of people ask why they'd bother. And it's impossible to answer, because that sort of person thinks "being able to understand things" is elitist.
DAMN THIS IVORY TOWER AND ITS PUSH/PULL SIGNS!
When people ask, "What's the point in understanding everything?" they've just disqualified themselves from using questions and should disappear in a puff of paradox. But they don't understand and just continue existing, which are also their only two strategies for life. These are the apes who sat in the back of the cave, scratching themselves while ooking about how bashing rocks together was a total waste of time. Except back then they had a better excuse for their sloping foreheads and scratching themselves in public.
"Not eat, not grope, THIS USELESS!"
Previous investigations of apparently pointless physical phenomena led to little things like electricity, quantum mechanics, absolutely everything, the entire modern world. Stuff like that. The most important breakthrough in the last thousand years came from shining invisible light on a piece of metal to watch more invisible bits come out. If scientists hadn't followed up on this odd little detail (aka the Ultraviolet Catastrophe, the most badass-sounding revolution in scientific understanding), the absolute limit of modern technology would be brass and steam. And we'd have Cavepunks wearing fake animal skins, posting lithographs of themselves holding giant fake clubs that don't actually work for hitting things.
The paleolithic version of "duck face" was "flamingo face."
"What's the Point?" Cancer Edition
"I spend five hours a day commenting on websites to tell people to do something useful!"
Complaining about "wasting money" is how people pretend to care without doing anything, or spending money of their own. When someone demands to know how people dare spend money on anything but curing cancer, steal their smartphone and sell it for charity. Repeat their argument back to them, duck, and over the next few years gradually notice how much better your life is now that they're not calling you.
"It all started that day I stopped listening to morons!"
This attitude reveals such fundamental misunderstandings about science that it could only happen at the Standard Model level. Science isn't one big resource pool. You can't switch particle physicists over to curing cancer, unless you want a lot of confused patients being accelerated down huge underground tunnels. Also, you're too late, because particle physics has already totally helped with curing cancer. And every other disease. And all injuries. X-rays, MRI, positron emission tomography -- all were incredibly abstract madnesses until humanity found them. Then fitted them with tiny subatomic harnesses to help fix our fleshy monkeybodies.
"We're going to watch antimatter explode inside you, and this is not a joke, WE ACTUALLY DO THIS."
When the military's going-to-Iraq budget is bigger than NASA's going-to-space budget, science might not be the first place you should cut. And it's pretty rich to talk about whether to fund science when funding as a concept only exists because of the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Without metallurgy, machinery, computers, medicine, agritech, etc., most of us would never have been born, the rest would have starved and the last surviving stockbroker would be an ape with no apples promising "Give you lots apples! First give me apple!" followed by loud chewing noises. The most successful businessmen in the world are just the best at playing in the world science gave them.
"They're Not Sure if They Found It!"
The whole point of science is making progress despite being 90 percent dumbass. That's not mocking the masses of humanity -- I mean that every individual brain is at least nine-tenths stupid. The only difference is that the smartest tenth knows that. That's why science uses established predictions, recorded results and peer review to make sure they're not fooling themselves. Adapting your answers to new evidence leads to discovery and progress. Adapting your evidence to fit your answers leads to human sacrifice and witch-burning.
Nicolas Cage got away, but the cast and crew of The Wicker Man were dealt with.
For most life forms, changing your behavior based on new evidence is smart, or basic survival strategy. But some see it as a sign of weakness, a dangerously intellectual flip-floppery that means you're no longer the most 100 percent BEST MOST RIGHTEST winner of arguments.
This makes the CERN announcement a useful intelligence-improving test. If your favorite news site pointed out that they've maybe found the Higgs boson, great. If they claimed "THEY FOUND THE HIGGS!" in 20-point type, find a new information source, because that one thinks good tweets are more important than actual facts. Rolph Heuer, director general of CERN, said, "As a layman I would now say, I think we have it. But as a scientist I have to say 'What do we have?'" That's the most exciting day of his life, and his first priority is "I will indulge in celebration for 2.4 seconds of this sentence before reminding myself to do things properly." That's the closest humanity has to Vulcans, and we've already put him in charge of scientific machinery larger than every Starship Enterprise put together.
Fascinating. Fucking. Squared.
Another wave of "It's not the Higgs?" articles will reveal further idiots. The only thing that could be even more exciting than finding the Higgs would be finding something else. Both tell us about the how the universe works. The only difference is that a non-Higgs would start by saying "Not like that," and then igniting the most awesome race to understanding the world has ever seen.
Trying to Sound Smarter
You know what makes you think you know better than decades of particle physics research? Thirty seconds of Yahoo! Science headlines! No, sorry, I meant "brain damage." I don't know how I could get those things confused.
Here you see someone trying to sound smart by combining all three of the sciencey words they know in one sentence, and "sciencey" isn't a word. These comments are followed by a few paragraphs of Wikipedia that got concussed as they fell into a mental blender. I've heard many debates like this before, but they're way less fun when the person responsible isn't distributing the joints and thereby paying for your time.
We really hope you skipped over most of that.
When someone's talking about the Englert-Brout-Higgs-Guralnik-Hagen-Kibble mechanism without knowing 90.9 percent of those syllables, they may be trying to show off their intelligence in the wrong arena. And trying to show off the wrong thing. It's the intellectual equivalent of the emperor's new clothes.
Conspiracy theorists are the exact opposite of scientists, throwing away data that doesn't fit their existing theories. They're also the opposite of scientists because scientists are listened to and useful and tend to shower. Some commenters find it mighty suspicious that this Large Hadron Collider detected a particle after people spent a lot of money on it, and like Scrooge McDuck, "a big pile of money" seems to be their entire point. Also, neither usually wears pants.
Pictured: Scrooge McDuck literally wiping his ass with money.
I've worked in academia, and the idea that scientists are making it up to continue idling on their handsome pay is the most hilarious sentence I've ever seen.
The best part is how these commenters never even suggest that the data is fake. The idea of there even being data doesn't impinge on their lives, possibly reflected by their tinfoil hats, but more likely because the idea of anyone ever backing up anything they say has never occurred to them. LHC runs generate two terabytes of data a day. That's more than the porn consumption of many entire countries (with some crosstalk as people mistype "hadrons"). If you wanted to fake that much data, it would be less trouble to create another universe where your theories are correct.
"Also, in this universe glasses are sexy on men, too."
Besides, if CERN scientists wanted to turn to crime for money, well, they live in an international underground complex filled with more scientific hardware than the TARDIS. They're already four-quarters Bond villains. If they turned to crime, it wouldn't be by scribbling made-up numbers.
Auric Goldfinger was actually researching vasectomy procedures.
Someone Said "God" Once
The idea of a "God particle" is useful when you're learning about the Higgs boson, because it tells you to stop learning from that person. It was apparently meant to be the "goddamn" particle because it was so hard to find, but the publisher removed the expletive and then knew a best-sellingly inaccurate title when he saw one. Physicists hate the term. Higgs hates the term. It's like discovering a vital new gene in neurology and calling it the Kardashian: bringing in a lot of completely unrelated material and distracting everyone who has to work with it.
This is the real reality show.
Most religious people have no problem with science. Science takes care of the physical, religion has the spiritual. It's like carrying a laptop and a bottle of cola in the same bag: They do different things, and as long as one doesn't spill all over the other, you've got no problems. Also, only assholes pressurize their cola to spray it all over other people. Unfortunately, for a vocal minority, the word "God" is a higher function "OFF" switch.
Some responses view the entire particle accelerator as religious persecution. When someone thinks multiple nations spent a billion euros to target their spiritual beliefs, the only thing bigger than their ego is its insanity. Religious authorities no longer make pronouncements about astrophysical issues because of that Galileo thing. Physicists don't storm into Mass demanding to run the transubstantiated body of Christ through a mass spectrometer because that would be disrespectful and pointless.
Man, our Lord really needs to cut down on the cholesterol.
If your faith is threatened by advanced particle physics smaller than a millionth of a speck of dust, the problem isn't with the physics. Science isn't versus religion, in the same way it isn't versus soccer players or morris dancers -- they just want them to stay out of the lab so they can get on with the work. And even if it was, an army of scientists building a vast underground proton cannon to aim it at your god would only prove your religion right in the most awesome possible way.
Luke McKinney has also Examined the Olympic Idiocy of NBC and Remembers the 5 Best Bits of Total Recall. He also tumbles and responds to every tweet.
For more super-science, check out 6 Man-Made Materials You Won't Believe Exist and 6 Things You Won't Believe Science Can Do With DNA.