In science, there are all sorts of gossip that tweak the infallibility of scientists.

For example, the discovery of the “big bang” was postponed until they cleaned the antennae of Pigeon poop, and found it was the sky, not the poop, causing the hum of  the big bang.

And Penicillin may have been discovered because of carelessness that allowed the mold to grow on the bacterial culture plates.

But in the saga of the Hadron Collider, one really has to wonder.

One of the big questions about subatomic physics is the question of the Higgs boson particle. From Wikipedia:

. The Higgs boson is the only Standard Model particle that has not been observed. Experimental detection of the Higgs boson would help explain the origin of mass in the universe

You may know it by it’s nickname: The God Particle,

Leon Lederman, wrote a great book on particle physics that he called “The God particle”, which was to be the main target for an enormous but ultimately ill-fated machine called the Superconducting Supercollider. In the book, he justifies the name by saying the particle is “so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname …”

Years back, when American scientists tried to get funding from Congress, they were turned down, so right now the Americans are using a smaller instrument to do their investigative physics, while in Europe, the  Hadron Collider was touted as being the best thing since Galileo’s telescope to discover the  basic structure of matter.

But for such a huge expensive project, they keep running into problems.

First, there were lawsuits claiming that the experiments would produce a black hole which would destroy the world.

No problem, of course, a similar “prediction” was made about the Atomic bomb  in 1945 and it didn’t stop the scientists back then either.

So finally, the big day came and…

Whoops. Problems. Some type of problem with the circuits that are supposed to supply energy to the magnets.

Many of the magnets meant to whiz high-energy subatomic particles around a 17-mile underground racetrack have mysteriously lost their ability to operate at high energies.

The problem seems to be a circuit that overheated and melted. Since there are a lot of little magnets and a lot of wires and circuits, this is a lot of work to check and fix.

But this isn’t the only problem with the collider.

A couple weeks ago, one of the scientists working on the Collider was arrested for ties with terrorism.

And last week, a new theory emerged: Someone up there is sabotaging the collider.

in a recent New York Times essay, Nielsen directly blames God for our Higgs boson woes. The two researchers propose that the search for the Higgs Boson is jinxed, and forever will be, because this bizarre particle has the ability to travel back in time. In a nutshell, Nielsen and Ninomiya reckon that the creation of a Higgs particle …will cause a chain of events that will ripple back in time, stopping its creation in the future.

Yes, it’s probably tongue in cheek, but there are a lot of time/space/multiple universe theories out there, and as the NYTimes essay noted:

craziness has a fine history in a physics that talks routinely about cats being dead and alive at the same time and about anti-gravity puffing out the universe.As Niels Bohr, …once told a colleague: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

But the latest news is merely complicating the discussion. The collider overheated again.

And this time it was a bread loving bird that did the dirty deed:

.The bird dropped some bread on a section of outdoor machinery, eventually leading to significant over heating in parts of the accelerator….the spike produced so much heat that had the beam been on, automatic failsafes would have shut down the machine.

So there you have it.

Is the future sabotaging the Hadron collider? Is  God instructing birds to drop their bread to sabotage the machinery? Or is some future scientist coming back from the future to stop us from destroying the earth?

Well, that explanation is better than the more logical alternative: shoddy workmanship, a lack of decent quality control, a lack of inspections, and concentrating on the goal without paying attention to the little stuff.

One is reminded of Richard Feynman’s report on the Space Shuttle disaster, where he noted that the “top down” way of running things often missed obvious problems that the engineers at the bottom could fix, but they weren’t asked, or worse, their worries were ignored as trivial. As a result, minor flaws were dismissed as unimportant, since fixing them would require major retooling of the design.

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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