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Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Friends, We Are All Interested in the Future...

...but some scientists have taken it beyond the usual, "What's for lunch?" phase.*

According to Time Magazine, two highly respected scientists have claimed that the recent power disruption to the Large Hadron Collider (or LHC**)near Geneva, Switzerland may have been caused by a bird sent from the future.

Go ahead, check your calendar. It's not April 1st.

Perhaps the big picture will offer a little insight into this otherwise daft sounding proclaimation.

On the third of November, the collider's energy supply was scuppered by a piece of baguette, apparently dropped by a passing bird. To begin with, this is an extremely silly thing to have happened. I realise French bread is substantial, but I have a whole new respect for the piece that can knock out an entire electric substation and the muscular pigeon that can hoist it.

Nonetheless, the operators of the LHC fished out the baguette (and had a substantial warm snack, I suspect) and set back to work. Meanwhile, upon hearing the news, the two respected scientists - or as Time calls them "eminent physicists" - Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya, began to develop their peculiar and highly entertaining theory about time traveling birds.

The theory goes something like this: The researchers at the LHC are trying to find the Higgs Boson. While this sounds like a moderately dry brand of Danish beer, it is in fact the subatomic particle theorized to provide mass to all matter in existence. However, some people think that creating a large group of Higgs Bosons could lead to all sorts of troublesome results: black holes, space-time ruffles***, and giant man-eating velociraptor shaped poodles.

All right, I made those last two up. Still, "black holes!" Not exactly as trivial as the local town council asking to put a rubbish bin on your block. We're talking about the mother of all celestial sinkholes.

Anyway, the esteemed physicists' theory holds that this Higgs Boson generating outcome is so troubling and problematic that God Himself or the universe, depending on your religious outlook, is intervening to do something about it. (Count me in the former camp, as if it's important enough, I know God is not going to sit around waiting for the universe to get off its lazy bum. Matter is a bit of a slacker, in my humble view. I think Newton would back me up on this, and maybe Einstein, if I could drag him away from the violin for a second.)

So, in short: LHC, massive collisions of atoms, Higgs Boson (not a Danish beer), potential black holes, God or universe steps in from the future to put a stop to this nonsense.

I should add that the Time piece assures us that this theory is backed up by complex maths. Well, of course it is! You don't think esteemed physicists just whip up this sort of thing between treatises on pan-dimensional probabilities, do you?

Where the theory breaks down for me is the whole bird/baguette bit. Poetically, I suppose it is a bit like the dove and the olive branch, but only in the same way that The Di Vinci Code is a bit like Great Expectations in that they are both works of fiction that were written in English and use punctuation.

Surely, if the supreme being of the entire universe is going to prevent a cosmic catastrophe, one would expect something a bit more direct than a wayward time-traveling budgie lobbing a crust of baked dough at the problem. Yes, God is obviously more than clever enough to use economy of means to resove the problem, but would that include the flourish of sending the bird back from the future?

As to the notion that impersonal universal forces delivered the bird and bread, that seems about as likely as them showing up in the flying Delorean with Christopher Lloyd at the wheel, or for that matter a flying Gran Torino with Hutch at the wheel. The imagination reels, doesn't it?

Still, the idea of fowl from the future attacking pernicious potential predicaments for the universe does have some charm for me. Call me egocentric, but the theory and my own experience give me a bit more optimism regarding the potential grandiosity of my future contributions to existence.

Or maybe that bird just mistook me for someone else?

* Yes, that was an extremely vague Douglas Adams reference.
** This actually stands for "Large Hadron Collider," but only because I couldn't think of a funnier definition.
*** These ruffles don't have ridges. Terrifying, isn't it?

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