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Higgs boson and the 4th of July
  • I was subjecting myself to the mountain of stupid comments posted on the Huffington Post about the announcement concerning the Higgs boson. Not sure why I was bothering – maybe out of perverse curiosity. This illustrates much more about what is wrong with the Internet than what is right about it – that is, when it comes to physics (most subjects actually, come to think of it) the public has little of value to say. Comments ranged from religious (due to the very unfortunate moniker “god particle”), to antagonistic (e.g. “this is a waste of money”, “this is like global warming BS”), to snarky (Al Gore will claim credit, as will Mitt Romney), to pseudo-scientific claptrap (e.g. “this proves intelligent design”, “if ‘nothing’ exists then it isn’t nothing”, misapplied quantum theory garbage) – amounting to veritable mountain of useless baloney. While contemplating going to my basement and banging my head against the floor for a while I came across this comment:

    "July 4, 2012: Ode to the Higgs Boson (assuming they actually found it)

    ..This year the 4th took on more worth than one nation's past defiance,

    ..It took its place among those dates that swell the chest of Science,

    ..While in the U.S. crowds will cheer the fireworks' zags & zigs,

    ..The physics-minded of the world are cheering long-sought Higgs!


    ..Now many folk just find it strange – this fuss about a boson

    ..(As if it were a high school crush just glimpsed without her clothes on!),

    ..But all of those who've been seduced by Nature's deep design

    ..Have seen her drop another veil and prove her form sublime.


    ..So mark the day how ere you will, abstract or pragmatical,

    ..Truth and joy take many forms – some are, some aren't mathematical,

    ..But don't begrudge the science types exulting this July

    ..The world around us plays a game first watched in their mind's eye."

    I have no idea if this person made this up on the spot, or whether it’s a variation of something from before – it’s pretty damned good though, don’t you think?

  • 17 Replies sorted by
  • I think that any research is good, really. But. Most of modern applied physics is quite dirty, as many people just sit for years and spend amazing amount of money and not provide any results. Zero.

    As for people, don't blame them. Blame physics and mass media who fail to describe things at required level (no, I don't mean low).

  • Good point - "filling a vacuum" I guess. Still, I was astounded by the volume of really stupid comments - and the cleverness of this one.

  • Now they've found it, will the machine be on sale on eBay? Shipping costs will be high, but it might arrive slightly earlier than predicted!

    PS I know this is a stupid comment!! But what the hell...

  • I blame the people. There are various and varied explanations of Higgs Boson all over the web and tv, there's no excuse for not finding a minimal and accurate baseline of understanding within ones limitations. The comments I've seen about HB are in line with what cbrandin has observed and it's pretty scary.

    As to the charge physicists are lazy and sit on top of piles of money accomplishing nothing, I have no idea since I don't belong to that world.

  • Theres a lot of dodging losing your research grant even in the face of knowing your theory is totally wrong, thus derailing any worthy advancement, going on

  • I am completely bemused by the lack of spending on scientific research! There doesn't seem like there is much hope for humankind that doesn't rely heavily on scientific development... and here we find ourselves spending an absurdly small % of gdp on our future!

    One might say.. "what future?"

    I rest my case...

  • @matthere


    This is amazing news. Manipulation of the Higgs field (or more specifically, the resistance of matter to it) is what can lead to "Mass Effect" like technology. I wonder if I can get my patent for "boson stripping" anti-gravity vehicles yet?

  • Just see what people were saying in the time of Galileo, Newton, Copernicus etc. with their announcements and there shouldn't be much surprise at the responses of today.

  • +1 what @MirrorMan's only that back in those days, people didn't have Web 2.0 which enabled them to post idiotic comments..... (instead they held high ranking positions).

    But let's avoid comparing too much, back in those days, most people were illiterate, they didn't even know that some bearded dude had observed moons around Jupiter or something like that. They only cared about growing food and surviving.

    Today, most people in the "modern world" can read and use internet, they can express their opinions, and worse, they can actually have some weight on the system, seems they live in democracy.

    Maybe a presidential candidate should declare that if elected he'd redirect all scientific research funds to more practical issues (like teaching creationism, attacking Iran, drilling the Arctic for oil).... and let's see how popular he gets. I'm afraid it might actually work, because basic research science is in a deep crisis : it has gone too deep and the average people don't understand it anymore. Try explaining quantum physics to someone who's already struggling with Newton.

    What if science goes too far and the people decide to shut it off ? (it can happen, i talk about creationism, it has become an official education topic in South Korea, which also happens to be a super-modern country.)

    In older days, when a new disease was discovered, people said "oh i hope science can cure it soon".

    Today, they say "oh yea right, these f**king pharmacological companies will make big money again".

    People are turning their back on science...

    And this has happened before. I studied Bronze age a bit. In europe, middle-bronze age was like a golden age of free trade, technological improvements. Most people died of disease and age rather than from violence or starvation. And the Bronze Age's most famous artifact is the Disc of Nebra, which is the first known astronomical tool. It was likely to be used as a tool to predict when spring would begin (as it represented the equinox sky). People worshipped it, it was their most advanced scientific tool.

    But then something happened : climate change (rings a bell ?).

    And with it came starvation, unpredictability of nature, loss of trust.... people turned their back on this science. The Disc of Nebra was declared dead and buried (with some artefacts, as if it were a king). That day started the lower Bronze Age, a time of violence, chaos, wars and starvation. Only the roman empire was able to bring a new "peace".

    I'm afraid history will repeat itself...

  • Now they've found it, will the machine be on sale on eBay?

    I dunno, a product like LHC seems much better suited to Craigslist.

  • @brianluce No scammers please, cash only, local pickup. You will need a large truck to move this thing, also it's underground so you might want to bring a shovel.

  • Einstein's notions of light and space time would've seemed esoteric and irrelevant to any productive activity in his day - yet everything today is based on those principles. No computers, lasers, nukes without it.

    We would be horse and buggy without his defiant insight into details no one thought to be relevant..

  • Einstein's notions of light and space time would've seemed esoteric and irrelevant to any productive activity in his day - yet everything today is based on those principles.

    Worse thing is that people are so brainwashed that they stick Einstein name to all this. :-) And no, most of the theories was not "esoteric and irrelevant" and quite reverse. Try to read any book about history of physics.
    After this read any modern book with critical view on modern theoretical physics.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev I know what you mean about the spectacularly inconclusive work of modern theoretical physics, but aren't these Higgs Boson researchers actually experimental physicists? My understanding was that theoretical and experimental physics are separate academic disciplines.

  • The absence of the phrase "string theory" signals a shift in physics which hopefully will build on the tried and true harmony of the theory and experimentation which has been mostly absent for more than two decades.

  • It was lost in translation;

    To clarify, I was saying Einstein's work was not esoteric and irrelevant.

  • The absence of the phrase "string theory" signals a shift in physics

    Actually a lot of articles say the opposite, that the HB discovery opens the door wide open for string theory and other such exotic explanations of reality.