Saturday, October 17, 2009

Higgs Boson: Time Traveler?

We've moved! Visit us at

As if theoretical physics wasn't weird enough. They've given us black holes, the Big Bang, the possibility of multiple dimensions, and invisible dark matter that is, as I write this, pushing the stars and planets apart. Now, a particle that is so dangerous that it might be traveling back in time to prevent itself from being discovered?

That is the outlandish but strangely fun premise of a paper by distinguished physicists Holger Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya featured in a New York Times article this week.

The particle in question is the elusive Higgs boson, sometimes called the "God Particle" for its importance in all we know about matter in the universe. The Higgs boson is predicted in the Standard Model that describes the four major forces of particle interactions - electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear force, and gravitation. The Higgs boson is the only particle predicted by the Standard Model that has not been observed.

There have been so many failures, in fact, that Nielson and Ninomiya think the deck just might be stacked against us. They postulate that the discovery of the particle is so dangerous that its effects ripple back through time and prevent the discovery from happening.

As the NY Times article points out, it would be like you going back in time to save your grandfather from being hit by a bus. There is no time-traveling paradox, like there would be if you went back in time to kill your grandfather, so the theory seems to hold some water. Except for the fact that it sounds completely nuts.

Then again, has theoretical physics ever really made sense?

~Rheanna Sand

1 comment: