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« Dean C. Rowan, Esteemed Film Critic | Main | Why science and religion don't mix well # 1874 »

July 04, 2012


@ Ruchira,

I still don't know why we didn't do it in Texas. Not only would this be happening in Texas, but it would have been done, probably, a while ago. I remember when it was a top news story - although I don't remember the year. I seem to recall the cost around the $100 million mark.

Later I read an article talking about how BIG science was siphoning money away from not-BIG science. A far greater number of scientists are employed and are trained in not-BIG science, so the argument went. Also, the scope of inquiry and study is far greater in not-BIG science.

I don't know if this was just post-decision rationalization.

Norm: Probably the Texas School Board didn't permit it - God Particle and all that blasphemy :-)
But seriously, it is indeed a bit of a mystery how the Super Collider was touted as the next big thing in American scientific pursuit after the moon landing and then the whole thing just fizzled out. But what you said about BIG science vs not-BIG science vying for pieces of the same funding pie is probably the reason.

Another interesting bit about Higgs boson (just the boson actually) - the India angle. The nationalistic aspect of the article is worth noting. The subatomic particles known as bosons are named after Bose. But Bose had nothing to do with Higgs boson.

A degree or two of separation brings us back to my friend, Steve Elkins, whose movie was the topic of the previous post. He has been working, filming, at CERN.

Dear God (particle)! The comments on The Hindu article about how S.N.Bose is being dissed because it's being called the Higgs boson, as opposed to the Higgs Boson, are a sad commentary in themselves on how the bulk of the so-called intelligent classes are too preoccupied with trifles. Barring a couple of voices of reason, the majority are either gratuitously hagiographic over the great Indian scientists of yore (and mourning the fact that the Indian scientists now have to change allegiances to countries like the US, before winning Nobel prizes) or sputtering with indignation over the small 'b' insult.
Loved the video: it explains everything in easy terms!

The anti-Italian bias is even stronger actually. The uncapitalized 'f'ermion, and Cabibbo being denied a Nobel Prize are nothing. They actually went to the trouble of mysteriously spiriting Majorana away, just to ensure that the contribution of Italian Stock to the world of science would be kept low. Well, they wanted to do that to Bose too, but got the wrong one by mistake.

Which Bose? JC?

Anyway, why didn't you post about this instead of me?

Netaji, I meant.

For a second, I thought you all were referring to this Bose. Godawful speakers (and I'm pretty sure Bose sued a reviewer many years ago for defamation for uttering a similar opinion).

The animated film is very helpful. Funny, though, that Krauss in his Slate piece goes out of his way to point out that real physicists don't refer to the "God particle," when the film itself is replete with analogies and figures for the workings of the Higgs Boson. Krauss needn't be so defensive.

@Prasad: Ah, that Bose, the disappeared one! I was looking among scientists.

If the Indian journalists had not been so nationalistic in their reporting and were looking for a real and relevant desi connection to the Higgs boson, they would have done well to include this man's, contribution. Not a Bose, but a Higgs bosonian and a Nobelist in his own right.

More on the discovery.

There are analogies and there are weird names. The Higgs has no more to do with God than it has to do with Mexico or iguanas. Calling it the God Particle sheds no light on what it is or why one might find it interesting. And someone might get it into their heads we're confirming or bashing their favorite religion.

I thought this summary from a prof was quite readable.

Prasad: But calling it the God particle might indicate *that* one might find it interesting.

Yes, a good summary, too, judged from my perspective of a person who really needs a good summary, for I am not a person who could compose one. I had no idea there was such rigid resistance to what seems to me to be a typically annoying, clever, simplifying denomination of a difficult concept. Go on about cocktail parties and wedgies, but the mention of God is an allergen.

Take the cocktail party analogy (which, for my purposes, as for Dave Goldberg's, is as good as a naming convention): it serves its purpose, although I had to read the link in the comments to the Wikipedia entry on Baron Waldegrave to better get it. I thought at first the analogy wasn't so apt. Really famous people at cocktail parties go wherever they want, when they want to. Nobody would dare cluster around them. So what compels the attraction? Anyway, I also understand that the PR consequences of a misleading name are nothing to sneeze at. Goldberg worries that some folks who don't know better will assume this discovery checks off the last item on a scientific to-do list and conclude we no longer need to fund pure research.

It reminds me of Arthur two sheds Jackson. Lederman does it in one popular book somewhere and suddenly it's what every news article's calling it. Though no scientist calls it that in classrooms or papers or conferences. So it goes I guess.

Vonnegut and Monty Python allusions in three short sentences. Marvelous! That MP bit is priceless, but so are most of them. Too bad Lederman didn't dub it the Spam Particle.

A very nice profile of Dr. Abdus Salam, the Pakistani scientist who predicted the Higgs boson.

A technical-ish (but the technical details can be ignored like the babble on Star Trek) overview of the history of the theory for the higgs. Salam is co-responsible (with Weinberg and Glashow) for a much bigger theoretical edifice than the higgs. There were some strange accusations (published on arxiv to boot) about Salam's Nobel last year. I don't think it's taken seriously, but gossip is always fun. I do remember watching an interview of Gell-Mann where he claimed he was responsible for Glashow getting the prize. He lobbied for the Glashow prize since his contribution was being ignored or something.

Check this out, people !!! This is the kind of intersection of science and religion that I celebrate :-)

Sshh... Ruchira. Somebody is going really take this stuff seriously and put up a competing temple to the Higgs-Boson,probably in Tiruchirappalli.

"Swamiji has also requested the Government to subsidize the annual pilgrimage of devotees to CERN headquarters to pay obeisance at the Large Hadron Collider where the Lord’s divine presence was first detected."

The government of India subsidizes the pilgrimage to Mecca. There are special airfares and dedicated departure lounges for pilgrims at major Indian airports. The Indian army helps maintain temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras in many parts of the country, especially in remote areas.

The interesting thing is that the scenario is entirely plausible in India. It would take very little effort to start a campaign and successfully install the Higgs boson into the Hindu pantheon of gods where "more the merrier" is the guiding philosophy.

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