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My head has been reeling at the news that science might be on the verge of confirming that the Higgs boson does indeed exist.
But I could see it puzzled my family.
I said: “I always knew that the Hadron Collider would find the Higgs boson.”
“I’ve never heard you mention it before,” said my wife.
I said that ever since Professor Peter Higgs postulated in 1964 about the way matter obtained mass I had my doubts about using “atom smashing” to find out. I am very relieved that it achieved something.
“Like what?” asked my wife.
“Well, something,” I said.
She remained puzzled.
Why, she wanted to know, would all those scientists at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) stand and applaud each other with tears of happiness springing from their eyes?
“Something happened,” I said. Something of huge importance.
Otherwise why would old Prof Higgs be there shaking his bearded head in wonderment that his boson was about to be triumphantly held aloft, so to speak, just like when Archimedes leapt out of his bath trying to hold up a slippery bar of Lifebuoy shouting “Eureka! I have found it!”?
When the CERN particle accelerator was started up near Geneva, what did I say? Actually, I forget. But I did say something for I knew as soon as all those tiny particles were sent whizzing round and round that 27km circular tunnel – all going in different directions at almost the speed of light and smashing into each other like minibus taxis – something was bound to happen.
At a later stage I remember addressing the family at the dinner table and saying: “Something is bound to happen.”
“Like what, daddy?” asked my eldest daughter who has an inclination towards science no doubt inherited from me.
“Something,” I said.
And I was right. Today we are on the verge of concluding the end of science’s quest for a new subatomic particle – Higgs boson as opposed to Higg’s bosom, which is altogether quite a different thing.
“What’s a boson?” asked my wife. “Isn’t it a naval officer who pipes the captain on board?”
“No,” I said, “that’s a bassoon. A boson is a cluster of particles or something.”
But think of it: after half a century of questing, after two generations of scientists clutching their head bones, we might now be able to understand, or begin to understand, or at least get an inkling of how the universe began.
“What has that got to do with bosons?” asked my wife.
“A lot,” I said.
I can see it now – all over the world school science masters are feverishly trying to understand what the hell this is all about because there’s always some smart Alec in the class – some budding little Einstein – who’s going to ask him: “Sir, how does Higgs boson tell us about the creation of antimatter?”
I just wish I was there to help.
The discovery of whatever was discovered is, I explained to my wife as I looked up from the article in the paper, “the key to understanding why matter has mass, which, combined with gravity, gives all objects weight”.
“What does that mean – ‘matter has mass’?” she asked.
“We are about to find out,” I said meaningfully.
I read out how “the Higgs particle is a crucial plank of the Standard Model”. I had always suspected this.
Without it the universe would have remained a giant cloud of separate particles no more solid than the cloud of dust that comes out of a vacuum cleaner bag if you jump on it.
“So it’s a very important step in science?” said my wife.
“Profound,” I said.