2012 might be the end of the world as we know it after all.
Scientists at the CERN center in Geneva have been busy using the Large Hadron Collider to search for a tiny theoretical particle called the “Higgs boson,” otherwise known as the “God particle.”
The particle is called the “God particle” ostensibly because it “could explain the creation and existence of all mass,” as Mashable notes. If its existence is confirmed, writes AP, it will “help explain many mysteries of the universe.”
Part of the reason the reason the universe needs explaining is that physics as we know it doesn’t really work on its own. From AP:
Frank Wilczek, a Nobel laureate and physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said finding the Higgs boson would tie up a loose end of the so-called standard model of physics, which requires a Higgs-like particle [to] exist. Proving the Higgs exists would be “a vindication of the equations we’ve been using all these years,” he said. “Since the equations have worked so brilliantly now for decades, it’s really nice to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.”
The Higgs particle was named for British physicist Peter Higgs, who realized there must be some missing particle to explain some mysteries of physics that wouldn’t hold up under established rules, such as “why subatomic particles — building blocks of the universe — have mass.”
Using the Large Hadron Collider—appropriately the same one that factors into a near-doomsday incident in Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons”—scientists have just gotten considerably closers to confirming the existence or non-existence of the “God particle.” Researchers said they “hope to reach a conclusion on whether the particle exists by next year.”
Calling the Higgs boson the “God particle” seems to have double and possibly triple meanings. The particle represents a scientific distillation of the great unknowable mystery of life. To the extent that the Higgs boson has gone undiscovered so has man retained some fundamental humility in the face of the vast universe. Once that mystery is solved, will it change how we think about life?
Plus, while confirming the particle’s existence will vindicate the physics equations that “have worked so brilliantly now for decades,” what will happen if they confirm it in fact doesn’t exist?
The physics we currently have—our basic understanding of physical reality—is predicated on the existence of the “God particle.” If we confirm it’s not there at all, it’ll blow a hole through the rules of physics, and through our minds.
Will the “God particle” turn out to be a fabrication of our minds, a quest that keeps driving us indefinitely to know the unknowable, much like the thing that keeps billions going to back to churches and temples every week?
Looks like the world as we know it may end in 2012, after all.