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God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 1:12 pm UTC
by Phen
Explosions, scientists arrested for alleged terrorism, mysterious breakdowns — recently Cern’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has begun to look like the world’s most ill-fated experiment.

Is it really nothing more than bad luck or is there something weirder at work? Such speculation generally belongs to the lunatic fringe, but serious scientists have begun to suggest that the frequency of Cern’s accidents and problems is far more than a coincidence.

The LHC, they suggest, may be sabotaging itself from the future — twisting time to generate a series of scientific setbacks that will prevent the machine fulfilling its destiny.

At first sight, this theory fits comfortably into the crackpot tradition linking the start-up of the LHC with terrible disasters. The best known is that the £3 billion particle accelerator might trigger a black hole capable of swallowing the Earth when it gets going. Scientists enjoy laughing at this one.

This time, however, their ridicule has been rather muted — because the time travel idea has come from two distinguished physicists who have backed it with rigorous mathematics.

What Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, are suggesting is that the Higgs boson, the particle that physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be “abhorrent to nature”.

What does that mean? According to Nielsen, it means that the creation of the boson at some point in the future would then ripple backwards through time to put a stop to whatever it was that had created it in the first place.

This, says Nielsen, could explain why the LHC has been hit by mishaps ranging from an explosion during construction to a second big bang that followed its start-up. Whether the recent arrest of a leading physicist for alleged links with Al-Qaeda also counts is uncertain.

Nielsen’s idea has been likened to that of a man travelling back through time and killing his own grandfather. “Our theory suggests that any machine trying to make the Higgs shall have bad luck,” he said.

“It is based on mathematics, but you could explain it by saying that God rather hates Higgs particles and attempts to avoid them.”

His warnings come at a sensitive time for Cern, which is about to make its second attempt to fire up the LHC. The idea is to accelerate protons to almost the speed of light around the machine’s 17-mile underground circular racetrack and then smash them together.

In theory the machine will create tiny replicas of the primordial “big bang” fireball thought to have marked the creation of the universe. But if Nielsen and Ninomiya are right, this latest build-up will inevitably get nowhere, as will those that come after — until eventually Cern abandons the idea altogether.

This is, of course, far from being the first science scare linked to the LHC. Over the years it has been the target of protests, wild speculation and court injunctions.

Fiction writers have naturally seized on the subject. In Angels and Demons, Dan Brown sets out a diabolical plot in which the Vatican City is threatened with annihilation from a bomb based on antimatter stolen from Cern.

Blasphemy, a novel from Douglas Preston, the bestselling science-fiction author, draws on similar themes, with a story about a mad physicist who wants to use a particle accelerator to communicate with God. The physicist may be American and the machine located in America, rather than Switzerland, but the links are clear.

Even Five, the TV channel, has got in on the act by screening FlashForward, an American series based on Robert Sawyer’s novel of the same name in which the start-up of the LHC causes the Earth’s population to black out for two minutes when they experience visions of their personal futures 21 years hence. This gives them a chance to change that future.

Scientists normally hate to see their ideas perverted and twisted by the ignorant, but in recent years many physicists have learnt to welcome the way the LHC has become a part of popular culture. Cern even encourages film-makers to use the machine as a backdrop for their productions, often without charging them.

Nielsen presents them with a dilemma. Should they treat his suggestions as fact or fiction? Most would like to dismiss him, but his status means they have to offer some kind of science-based rebuttal.

James Gillies, a trained physicist who heads Cern’s communications department, said Nielsen’s idea was an interesting theory “but we know it doesn’t happen in reality”.

He explained that if Nielsen’s predictions were correct then whatever was stopping the LHC would also be stopping high-energy rays hitting the atmosphere. Since scientists can directly detect many such rays, “Nielsen must be wrong”, said Gillies.

He and others also believe that although such ideas have an element of fun, they risk distracting attention from the far more amazing ideas that the LHC will tackle once it gets going.

The Higgs boson, for example, is thought to give all other matter its mass, without which gravity could not work. If the LHC found the Higgs, it would open the door to solving all kinds of other mysteries about the origins and nature of matter. Another line of research aims to detect dark matter, which is thought to comprise about a quarter of the universe’s mass, but made out of a kind of particle that has so far proven impossible to detect.

However, perhaps the weirdest of all Cern’s aspirations for the LHC is to investigate extra dimensions of space. This idea, known as string theory, suggests there are many more dimensions to space than the four we can perceive.

At present these other dimensions are hidden, but smashing protons together in the LHC could produce gravitational anomalies, effectively tiny black holes, that would reveal their existence.

Some physicists suggest that when billions of pounds have been spent on the kit to probe such ideas, there is little need to invent new ones about time travel and self-sabotage.

History shows, however, it is unwise to dismiss too quickly ideas that are initially seen as science fiction. Peter Smith, a science historian and author of Doomsday Men, which looks at the links between science and popular culture, points out that what started as science fiction has often become the inspiration for big discoveries.

“Even the original idea of the ‘atomic bomb’ actually came not from scientists but from H G Wells in his 1914 novel The World Set Free,” he said.

“A scientist named Leo Szilard read it in 1932 and it gave him the inspiration to work out how to start the nuclear chain reaction needed to build a bomb. So the atom bomb has some of its origins in literature, as well as research.”

Some of Cern’s leading researchers also take Nielsen at least a little seriously. Brian Cox, professor of particle physics at Manchester University, said: “His ideas are theoretically valid. What he is doing is playing around at the edge of our knowledge, which is a good thing.

“He is pointing out that we don’t yet have a quantum theory of gravity, so we haven’t yet proved rigorously that sending information into the past isn’t possible.

“However, if time travellers do break into the LHC control room and pull the plug out of the wall, then I’ll refer you to my article supporting Nielsen’s theory that I wrote in 2025.”

This weekend, as the interest in his theories continued to grow, Nielsen was sounding more cautious. “We are seriously proposing the idea, but it is an ambitious theory, that’s all,” he said. “We already know it is not very likely to be true. If the LHC actually succeeds in discovering the Higgs boson, I guess we will have to think again.”
Holger Beck Nielsen says it, so it must be true.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 2:00 pm UTC
by psyck0
Oh, bullshit. I don't know who whose dudes are (I'm a biochemist, not a physicist) but the media has conclusively shown that they don't know the difference between scientists and crackpots with their pseudoscience. It's just some bad luck.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:03 pm UTC
by Godskalken
So when it comes to the LHC, Murphy's law is a law of nature, which is pretty cool.

psych0 wrote:Oh, bullshit. I don't know who whose dudes are (I'm a biochemist, not a physicist) but the media has conclusively shown that they don't know the difference between scientists and crackpots with their pseudoscience. It's just some bad luck.


I read about the same thing in NYtimes a while ago, and it claimed these were renown physicists.

New York Times wrote:Dr. Nielsen is well-qualified in this tradition. He is known in physics as one of the founders of string theory and a deep and original thinker, “one of those extremely smart people that is willing to chase crazy ideas pretty far,” in the words of Sean Carroll, a Caltech physicist and author of a coming book about time, “From Eternity to Here.”


Though being a renown string theorist may simply mean you have some crazy ideas. I also see that this was published on arXiv as opposed to some peer-reviewed journal.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:11 pm UTC
by tzvibish
I can't help but think that these guys said this with serious faces of awe and wonder, and then went back to their rooms and laughed their asses off.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:18 pm UTC
by Freakish
Thanks for the "Flash Forward" spoiler jerk face.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:25 pm UTC
by Decker
tzvibish wrote:I can't help but think that these guys said this with serious faces of awe and wonder, and then went back to their rooms and laughed their asses off.

I agree compleatly.
I'm also slightly miffed at this part of the article.

Most would like to dismiss him, but his status means they have to offer some kind of science-based rebuttal.
This seems to say that they guy with all the degrees can pretty much say whatever he wants and you can't disagree with him without 20 pages of calculations.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:27 pm UTC
by Phen
psyck0 wrote:Oh, bullshit. I don't know who whose dudes are (I'm a biochemist, not a physicist) but the media has conclusively shown that they don't know the difference between scientists and crackpots with their pseudoscience. It's just some bad luck.

Biochemist highfive!

Holger Beck is the most known physicist in Denmark, no doubt, the archtypical eccentric absentminded professor. I think tzvibish called it.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:32 pm UTC
by BlackSails
Here is a science based rebuttal for them: What reasoning supports that the higgs is abhorrent to nature? Dont they exist all over the place giving things mass?

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:56 pm UTC
by Heisenberg
BlackSails wrote:Here is a science based rebuttal for them: What reasoning supports that the higgs is abhorrent to nature? Dont they exist all over the place giving things mass?

Good point. Either they (a) exist and are omnipresent, and therefore finding one wouldn't be a big deal, or (b) they don't exist and the LHC experiments will fail to find them.

Unless the origin of the universe is in some kind of quantum state, and the act of discovering it could in fact cause it to no longer exist. I'm sure that's purely ridiculous, but it's fun to think about.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:36 pm UTC
by Dauric
Heisenberg wrote:
BlackSails wrote:Here is a science based rebuttal for them: What reasoning supports that the higgs is abhorrent to nature? Dont they exist all over the place giving things mass?

Good point. Either they (a) exist and are omnipresent, and therefore finding one wouldn't be a big deal, or (b) they don't exist and the LHC experiments will fail to find them.

Unless the origin of the universe is in some kind of quantum state, and the act of discovering it could in fact cause it to no longer exist. I'm sure that's purely ridiculous, but it's fun to think about.

Douglas Adams wrote:Some theories state that if anyone ever figures out what the universe is and why it is here it will instantly be replaced by something even more bizarrely inexplicable. Others state that this has already happened.
- Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:39 pm UTC
by Heisenberg
You know when you think you have an idea, and it's actually something you read a long time ago? Yeah.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:44 pm UTC
by tzvibish
You know when you have an idea, and then it turns out tha Hitchhikers Guide already thought of it? Happens to me all the time.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:19 pm UTC
by Aikanaro
Is it not written, "There's a lot that goes on that we don't get told about?" :P

Beyond that, the only response I can give to things screwing up the LHC is to point and laugh...and my laughter gets louder with each progressive problem with it.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:46 pm UTC
by Arancaytar
Heisenberg wrote:
BlackSails wrote:Here is a science based rebuttal for them: What reasoning supports that the higgs is abhorrent to nature? Dont they exist all over the place giving things mass?

Good point. Either they (a) exist and are omnipresent, and therefore finding one wouldn't be a big deal, or (b) they don't exist and the LHC experiments will fail to find them.


Finding them is a big deal because they're omnipresent...

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:01 am UTC
by telcontar42
Phen wrote:He explained that if Nielsen’s predictions were correct then whatever was stopping the LHC would also be stopping high-energy rays hitting the atmosphere. Since scientists can directly detect many such rays, “Nielsen must be wrong”, said Gillies.


I think this is the important point here that counters most of the wilder theories about the LHC. Collisions of this energy happen all the time in the atmosphere. The point of the LHC is just to cause these collisions in a controlled observable environment.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:25 am UTC
by NoodleIncident
But you guys are forgetting--the LHC is fundamentally different. SCIENCE=knowledge, knowledge=power, power=energy, and energy=mass. The LHC's SCIENCE makes any black holes and higgs bosons inherently more dangerous. :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:48 am UTC
by BlackSails
Arancaytar wrote:
Finding them is a big deal because they're omnipresent...


Or so we think anyway.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 2:21 am UTC
by jakemaheu
NoodleIncident wrote:But you guys are forgetting--the LHC is fundamentally different. SCIENCE=knowledge, knowledge=power, power=energy, and energy=mass. The LHC's SCIENCE makes any black holes and higgs bosons inherently more dangerous. :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:


Technically, wouldn't that be energy=mass times the speed of light in a vacuum squared?

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 2:43 am UTC
by Godskalken
jakemaheu wrote:
NoodleIncident wrote:But you guys are forgetting--the LHC is fundamentally different. SCIENCE=knowledge, knowledge=power, power=energy, and energy=mass. The LHC's SCIENCE makes any black holes and higgs bosons inherently more dangerous. :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:


Technically, wouldn't that be energy=mass times the speed of light in a vacuum squared?


In these "equations", the equal sign is interpreted as "is" (knowledge is power), so you could say energy is mass (in a different form), and the c^2 only determines the amount of mass. I'm more worried about "power=energy". I suppose "power = energy/time" doesn't really do it for the joke (which I don't get anyway, where does the danger come in?). </derailment>

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:42 am UTC
by telcontar42
jakemaheu wrote:
NoodleIncident wrote:But you guys are forgetting--the LHC is fundamentally different. SCIENCE=knowledge, knowledge=power, power=energy, and energy=mass. The LHC's SCIENCE makes any black holes and higgs bosons inherently more dangerous. :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:


Technically, wouldn't that be energy=mass times the speed of light in a vacuum squared?


Nah, it's fine. You can just set c = 1.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 9:22 am UTC
by SlyReaper
I thought the LHC had a sort of quantum immortality thing going on. Every universe in which the LHC successfully activates is destroyed, only leaving those universes in which something happened to prevent it. Since we cannot observe a destroyed universe, it just looks like divine intervention.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 11:42 am UTC
by Phen
Godskalken wrote:
jakemaheu wrote:
NoodleIncident wrote:But you guys are forgetting--the LHC is fundamentally different. SCIENCE=knowledge, knowledge=power, power=energy, and energy=mass. The LHC's SCIENCE makes any black holes and higgs bosons inherently more dangerous. :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:


Technically, wouldn't that be energy=mass times the speed of light in a vacuum squared?


In these "equations", the equal sign is interpreted as "is" (knowledge is power), so you could say energy is mass (in a different form), and the c^2 only determines the amount of mass. I'm more worried about "power=energy". I suppose "power = energy/time" doesn't really do it for the joke (which I don't get anyway, where does the danger come in?). </derailment>

I think the extra danger is due to the SCIENCE happening with the LHC and not just regular science.

SlyReaper wrote:I thought the LHC had a sort of quantum immortality thing going on. Every universe in which the LHC successfully activates is destroyed, only leaving those universes in which something happened to prevent it. Since we cannot observe a destroyed universe, it just looks like divine intervention.

That was my interpretation of the article. Maybe I just failed at reading.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Tue Nov 17, 2009 12:23 pm UTC
by SlyReaper
Nah the article seems to be talking specifically about time travel. I prefer my quantum immortality theory because it means the universe will live forever and always contain at least one observer. :P

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:10 am UTC
by MrGee
*Ahem*

Morbo wrote:SCIENCE DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:26 am UTC
by Cynical Idealist
MrGee wrote:*Ahem*

Morbo wrote:Image
SCIENCE DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!

You seem to have forgotten the picture that goes with that, so I added it for you.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 7:48 am UTC
by SlyReaper
MrGee wrote:*Ahem*

Morbo wrote:SCIENCE DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY!


But it would be awesome if it did. Just saying.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 8:35 am UTC
by phillipsjk
A simpler explanation is that one of the most complicated machines ever built (by "man") is bound to have a few problems in the initial design.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:09 pm UTC
by Aikanaro
phillipsjk wrote:A simpler decidedly less fun explanation is that one of the most complicated machines ever built (by "man") is bound to have a few problems in the initial design.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:39 pm UTC
by Woxor
I wonder if mathematicians' thoughts are ever sabotaged by abominations from the future. If so, I can blame that for any and all mathematical shortcomings I've ever had.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 12:10 am UTC
by headprogrammingczar
Where's the G-Man when you need him? He would have that thing up and running in no time.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 8:01 am UTC
by SlyReaper
headprogrammingczar wrote:Where's the G-Man when you need him? He would have that thing up and running in no time.

All will become clear in the course of... well... I'm really not... at liberty to say.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 4:38 pm UTC
by podbaydoor
“However, if time travellers do break into the LHC control room and pull the plug out of the wall, then I’ll refer you to my article supporting Nielsen’s theory that I wrote in 2025.”

I enjoyed this quote a lot.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:40 pm UTC
by headprogrammingczar
Part of me thinks the LHC team is actually just sitting around watching Primer.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 8:00 am UTC
by SlyReaper
podbaydoor wrote:
“However, if time travellers do break into the LHC control room and pull the plug out of the wall, then I’ll refer you to my article supporting Nielsen’s theory that I wrote in 2025.”

I enjoyed this quote a lot.

:mrgreen:

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:31 pm UTC
by RealityPlusPlus
Too bad that that idea is theoretically impossible too.

Traveling back in time to prevent something from happening means that you don't have to go back to prevent it, which therefore means that you do, which therefore means that you don't... paradox.

Traveling back in time and 100% accurately seeing the future are completely impossible through paradoxicallity. Luckily neither can we see the past with 100% accuracy nor travel to the future, yet.

Dumbass scientists.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:40 pm UTC
by Box Boy
Unless you believe that going back in time basically creates a new reality, one which you can change to your hearts content while your own one remains the same.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:43 pm UTC
by Sizik
RealityPlusPlus wrote:Traveling back in time to prevent something from happening means that you don't have to go back to prevent it, which therefore means that you do, which therefore means that you don't... paradox.


*cough*

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:57 pm UTC
by BlackSails
I just realized that we have evidence of causality violations anyway, from the abraham-lorentz force.

Actually, does anyone know of some experimental work on the preacceleration?

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 11:47 pm UTC
by MrGee
RealityPlusPlus wrote:Too bad that that idea is theoretically impossible too.

Traveling back in time to prevent something from happening means that you don't have to go back to prevent it, which therefore means that you do, which therefore means that you don't... paradox.

Traveling back in time and 100% accurately seeing the future are completely impossible through paradoxicallity. Luckily neither can we see the past with 100% accuracy nor travel to the future, yet.

Dumbass scientists.


When you say "paradox" you mean "contradiction".

My English teacher always told me a paradox was a seeming contradiction with a subtle resolution, but the dictionary disagrees. :(

Anyway...a paradox/contradiction is in the eye of the beholder. When general relativity states that it can be 2pm for me AND midnight for someone else, that's a paradox, until you abandon the notion of absolute time.

Re: God hates Higgs particles, sabotages LHC

Posted: Sun Nov 22, 2009 11:52 pm UTC
by WaterToFire
MrGee wrote:
RealityPlusPlus wrote:Too bad that that idea is theoretically impossible too.

Traveling back in time to prevent something from happening means that you don't have to go back to prevent it, which therefore means that you do, which therefore means that you don't... paradox.

Traveling back in time and 100% accurately seeing the future are completely impossible through paradoxicallity. Luckily neither can we see the past with 100% accuracy nor travel to the future, yet.

Dumbass scientists.


When you say "paradox" you mean "contradiction".

My English teacher always told me a paradox was a seeming contradiction with a subtle resolution, but the dictionary disagrees. :(

Anyway...a paradox/contradiction is in the eye of the beholder. When general relativity states that it can be 2pm for me AND midnight for someone else, that's a paradox, until you abandon the notion of absolute time.


N'awfence, but you don't need to understand general relativity to understand relative time zones. You just need to realize that our notion of time of day is based on the Sun's position overhead.