Particle collider zapped from the future?

You know that new particle collider that was supposed to isolate the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle,” which supposedly gives particles their mass? And how some people worried that the experiment might create a black hole that would destroy the earth? Well, the collider keeps breaking down. To the point of provoking a new theory. From The New York Times:

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world’s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang.

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I’m not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal” and “Search for Future Influence From LHC,” posted on the physics Web site arXiv.org in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”

I realize that part of this must be jocular, but still it is interesting that the imagination of our theorists is taking such forms.

HT: Joe Carter at First Things

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

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  • WebMonk

    I would love to be able to read his original paper. The “abhorrent to nature” phrase sounds like the sort of fluffy, wildly incorrect, but vaguely related description that gets told to reporters by scientists. Ditto for the God-hates-the-Higgs-Boson-particle phrase. That one sounds like out and out joking.

    I would be willing to bet that the paper has a slightly more respectable handling of the premise. Is it a probable or even possible explanation? I wouldn’t think so, but it is probably a bit less crack-pot sounding.

  • WebMonk

    I would love to be able to read his original paper. The “abhorrent to nature” phrase sounds like the sort of fluffy, wildly incorrect, but vaguely related description that gets told to reporters by scientists. Ditto for the God-hates-the-Higgs-Boson-particle phrase. That one sounds like out and out joking.

    I would be willing to bet that the paper has a slightly more respectable handling of the premise. Is it a probable or even possible explanation? I wouldn’t think so, but it is probably a bit less crack-pot sounding.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Wasn’t the original claim with the boson that it was the particle accounting for 98% of the mass of the universe or something like that–that it was essential to justify the cosmological theories we have?

    I don’t understand all the arguments, but this would seem to put the kibosh on certain parts of standard cosmology, or at least impose difficulties.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Wasn’t the original claim with the boson that it was the particle accounting for 98% of the mass of the universe or something like that–that it was essential to justify the cosmological theories we have?

    I don’t understand all the arguments, but this would seem to put the kibosh on certain parts of standard cosmology, or at least impose difficulties.

  • Carl Vehse
  • Carl Vehse
  • WebMonk

    Thanks Carl. I didn’t even bother with arXiv since I figured the papers would be subscription-only.

    Just worked my way through them. The higher maths are beyond me to verify but nothing looks to be obviously cheating. But, really the math is there to try to give a more concrete status to the philosophies put forward in the paper. (and it is philosophy, but at least he is trying to test the philosophy)

    The maths and experiment are a bit odd, and I’m not completely sure they would truly test their position. If their theory about future events affecting past events is correct, it would work to provide a validly informative result, but if their theory isn’t correct, I don’t see that ANY result would have usable information in it.

    Yes, the papers do treat the topic with a great deal more seriousness than “God hates the Higgs Boson” phrase suggests.

  • WebMonk

    Thanks Carl. I didn’t even bother with arXiv since I figured the papers would be subscription-only.

    Just worked my way through them. The higher maths are beyond me to verify but nothing looks to be obviously cheating. But, really the math is there to try to give a more concrete status to the philosophies put forward in the paper. (and it is philosophy, but at least he is trying to test the philosophy)

    The maths and experiment are a bit odd, and I’m not completely sure they would truly test their position. If their theory about future events affecting past events is correct, it would work to provide a validly informative result, but if their theory isn’t correct, I don’t see that ANY result would have usable information in it.

    Yes, the papers do treat the topic with a great deal more seriousness than “God hates the Higgs Boson” phrase suggests.

  • Carl Vehse

    To paraphrase the Fermi Paradox: If backward causation existed, we would know about it.

  • Carl Vehse

    To paraphrase the Fermi Paradox: If backward causation existed, we would know about it.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Or at least we would have known about it? :^)

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Or at least we would have known about it? :^)

  • Robert E

    Did we not learn anything from the Tower of Babel?

  • Robert E

    Did we not learn anything from the Tower of Babel?


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