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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I live in an accidental universe?

Yesterday, I penned - okay, I typed - some thoughts on the 2103 Nobel Physics prize. I am still thinking about that today. A few weeks ago, I was out in our backyard, as I am prone to be in the late evening since the two-year-old life form that abides with us demands it to be so. While Abby was snuffling around in the shadows cast by the floodlights, I stood gazing into the heavens.

There are two major schools of thought on how our amazing blanket of stars came to be:
  1. Totally by accident
  2. Placed by divine design or perhaps propelled into position by a divinely-caused event
Near the end of yesterday's missive, I asked, rhetorically, what the ultimate value of the Higgs boson - also known as the god particle - would be to mankind. It's not easy to take fifty years of scientific research and distill it down to a few understandable sentences. I have seen the Higgs boson described as the sub-atomic particle which is believed to give all matter in the universe size and shape. That is pretty strong stuff right there.

Representation of Higgs boson in collision

Apparently, physicists who adhere to something known as the Standard Model believe that the Higgs boson is key to our understanding of the formation of stars, planets and eventually life after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

Since 2008, some of the largest brains on planet Earth have been slinging particles around a 27-Kilometer ring in Switzerland and studying what happens when they run into each other. I am probably over-simplifying and by no means is it my intent to demean what these scientists are doing. I am not mocking or belittling science and scientific theory; I am simply asking, "Why?"

What will come of these experiments? What will mankind reap from the knowledge we gain? What does understanding how a subatomic particle obtains its mass do for the survival of the human race?

These are big questions to which, I suspect, there are really no easy answers.

However, we live in the Internet Age. We have the magical YouTube portal that allows us to find information that would have never been retrievable in years past.

Nat Napoletano is really excited about Higgs boson...and it's potential benefits

I found the video above quite early in my search for the meaning surrounding the elusive Higgs boson particles. There are a ton of other videos posted up by Mr. Napoletano and hopefully I'll have time someday to review them. And while he does explain the theory of theories fairly clearly, Mr. Napoletano really doesn't give us much of an anchor regarding the benefits of this year's Higgs boson developments. He likens it to the 2,000 years in between the Bronze and Iron ages. In effect, because we have theories, we are better able to craft experiments that will test these theories and - hopefully - prove some hypotheses along the way. And as a result of our ever-increasing scientific knowledge, the pace of that proving is accelerating like a subatomic particle around a magnetically guided ring.

But all of this still doesn't balance in my head.

$9,000,000,000 and counting.

That is the amount of money that people have spent on constructing and operating the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. Honestly? I'd like to work there; it has to be so cool to be a part of that. But I know I'm not smart enough. The science doesn't live in my head. I stink at any math I can't pull off with a standard 10-key calculator. The answers I'm looking for aren't forthcoming. Answers like, "So, we've spent over $9 billion dollars and look at this! A faster-than-light ship that humans can travel in," or, "You know that Dark Matter and Dark Energy we've been speculating about? Well, here's what it is...," or maybe even, "Hey! Check out my new lightsaber!"

But none of that sort of stuff is on the horizon in my lifetime, or probably the lives of the next several generations of my family. So I'll stand in my backyard again tonight and look up at the stars. I won't think much about Higgs bosons or quarks or dark matter. I will think about the one thing I believe explains why everything is: because it was created to be that way. My hope is that one day science and faith will come together and all the theories and all the experiments and all the explorations will collide with one indisputable fact.

God. And He's not a particle.

What do you think?


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