Large Hadron Collider: Damaged by a Time-Traveling Bird?

About us …

Eben Harell from Times Magazine writes about the European super-collider’s latest drawbacks. Keeping it simple, the CERN’s (Centre Européen de Recherche Nucléaire) most expensive and sophisticated project is a particle accelerator whose main aim is to smash atoms one into the other at a high speed hoping to reveal the existence of a subatomic particle: The Higgins Boson. Why spend 9 billion dollars to find something which existence was proven only by theory and which discovery may very well be inconsequential to our everyday lives? How is it even possible to invest taxpayer money in such projects? 9 billion dollars could surely save some of Africa’s poor while this discovery may possibly change our comprehension of the universe. Why risk so much for so little amidst such uncertainty?

Highlighting the debate about the latest damages done to the CERN’s LHC (Large Hadron Collider) could very well help us answer that question. Apparently, one of the super-coolers began to overheat at one moment. And the cause is a bit of bread thrown by a lost bird. When I first read the title I thought maybe the bird was actually brought from the future inside the machine thanks to some collision that opened a breach inside the space-time continuum, hence the title of the article. You would say that’s a lot of imagination there. Well it’s really moderate compared with what some physicists came up with.

This lost bird and that insignificant piece of bread have sprung a whole debate inside the physicians’ scientific community. That is because Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya, two esteemed physicists, saw a sign in it. Of course, in their technical physical jargon, it became a "reverse chronological causation" and produced a highly mathematic-filled article which is now ground to a theory: Did a time-travelling bird damage the super-collider? In other terms, did the prospect of creating a large quantity of Higgs Bosons disrupt something in time and sent some sort of undulation into the future which then “answered back” by sending a present bird to heat a cooler? According to Nielsen and Ninomiya: Yes.

Intellectually speaking, I understand these two physicists. Time travelling is every child’s dream and every grown up’s fantasy. But as serious and as documented as their article can be, it challenges a quintessential idea of life and nature. And maybe that eccentric theory may help us justify the enormity of this project’s cost which has been prickling me since the very beginning:

The fact is Higgs Boson is said to be responsible for imparting mass to all things in the universe. It is the main particle composing the dark matter that fills the void of our (very heavy) universe, the reason for which matter can be, and therefore, most of all and logically, the first particle that appeared during the universe’s creation: The Big Bang.

Now let me ask that question again: Why spend 9 billion dollars to find that particle? As important as it could possibly be to science, nothing is guaranteed and, plausibly, no innovation will come out of it. That’s where I think Nielsen and Ninomiya’s article can help my argument:

I am a big fan of physics but as biased as what follows might be, I truly believe it is the way things need to be done. These 9 billion that aren’t helping the poor and are fuelling instead what very well might be the ego, the pride, and the foolish daydreams of some physicists are being spent wisely. Humanity gains meaning trough these efforts. For through such experiments, we cease to be a static species and we grab the meaning of our difference. Nothing guarantees the results of these atomic collisions and the eventual usefulness of these expenses, but they must be done, because that is how our kind goes forth: Through leaps into the unknown. And it is only when we land; when we realize that we touched ground, that we understand the purpose of us being: Risk and success, both synonymous of faster heartbeats which define our existence and take us further in our march.

This is why Nielsen and Ninomiya are wrong, because life is now. We are the masters of the moment and the future is the moment’s fate. It is the step further and that step is ours. No time-travelling bird or epoch-transcending pilgrim can come and deviate our path because the thing about leaping into the unknown is that it’s unknown. No one’s hiding behind the horizon, already knowing what will happen, or he (He) would have had the gentleness of avoiding us two WW. The thing is: We are alone.