Skip to main content

Back from the future: is the Higgs jinxing the LHC?

Back from ur futurez to mess wit yur LHCs  Now i willz sabotaz FermiLab!
Photo by Heidi Schellman, Higgs by Particle Zoo

A science essay in Tuesday's New York Times made big waves in the physics blogosphere. Science essay, you ask? I think the editors decided to use that label as a sort of implicit disclaimer, letting readers know, right up front, to not expect a trim, carefully-researched report of a new scientific breakthrough, something that the author, Dennis Overbye, an MIT-educated science journalism vet and deputy editor of the Times science section, can do with his eyes closed. "The Collider, the Particle, and a Theory About Fate" goes out on a limb—a really long limb—and discusses a fringe idea a couple of theoretical physicists posed to explain why the LHC has been plagued with troubles: the Higgs doesn't want to be found.

To quote Overbye:

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.

I'm stumped already. If the Higgs mechanism is correct, if matter gets mass by interacting with the omnipresent Higgs field, the boson already exists. Wouldn't it be the detection, not the creation, that was so abhorrent? But this question aside, the basic idea is that finding the Higgs would be so catastrophic, the equivalent "of the universe being hit by a bus," that the event actually reaches a long finger back down the corridor of time and shorts out a superconducting magnet, or (gulp) prods European politicians into cutting the LHC's funding.

The "otherwise distinguished physicists" in question are Holger Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan. They're both respected string theorists, which makes them either serious physicists or the usual suspects, depending on your philosophical persuasion. If you'd like to dive right into this, you can read one of the papers on the arXiv.

I'm surprised to see a fringe paper from the arXiv, and the arXiv in general, make it into the New York Times, though it should be clear that Overbye's not reporting on this as breaking news or important research—he lays it out right up top that this is a pretty out-there notion. As a science journalist on the physics beat, Overbye must be a frequent tourist to the arXiv, a place I think of as the gritty black-market of physics research, where publication and revision happens fast and loose, far from the watchful eye of peer reviewers. True, most papers are completely legitimate and later surface in the journals, but the arXiv has its fair share of dark alleys and unsavory inhabitants. I'm surprised that Overbye would want to lead his unsuspecting readers right into this less-than-wholesome place. And while I enjoyed the trip, I think INFN research scientist Tommaso Dorigo, a CDF alum preparing to hunt the Higgs with CMS, is a somewhat more seasoned and able guide. While Overbye playfully presents the idea as "bizzare and revolutionary," Dorigo immediately derides it as "respectable physicists gone crackpotty." (Also, his blog post has about two years on Overbye's article.) He dissects one of Nielsen and Ninomiya's papers nearly paragraph by paragraph until he arrives at this gem:

The experiment proposed in the present article is to give the "foresight", so to speak, a chance of avoiding having to close LHC by some funding or other bad luck accident, as it happened to SSC, by instead playing a game of pulling a card from a well mixed stack about the running of the LHC.

As far as I understand it, the proposal is to officially decide whether to go forward with the LHC based on the result of drawing from a pack of cards. The vast majority of cards would read something like "run the LHC," while a very small fraction would instruct CERN to run the machine at settings too low to find the Higgs, and one would say "shut down LHC." If the highly improbable card were drawn, it would be a sign that something in the future was preventing the LHC from running, an argument to follow the instructions on the card. (I'm assuming they'd have to get the people in charge of the LHC to officially decide to act on the outcome of the game, otherwsie this "foresight" influence just wouldn't happen.) In addition, the physicists argue, playing the card game would be a lot safer than just letting things play out. In the latter case, they say, failure by "natural causes" would be far costlier than implementing this simple game. They add, more ominously, who knows how violently the future discovery of the Higgs would affect the past?

This is about where I get off the Magical Mystery Bus and wave Messrs. Nielsen and Ninomiya goodbye.

The internets seemed to feel largely the same way. The article's comments page alone makes for fascinating reading. A lot of folks on the blogs have been saying that Overbye was wrong to write about this kind of thing, especially in such a mainstream, visible place. At Quantum Diaries, a blogger was quick to call it a "bad week for science journalism," while a Science Blogger bemoaned the "bad publicity" for the LHC and reprimanded Overbye for citing something from the free-for-all arXiv. While I do have to agree with his assertion that the media tends to concentrate on the loopy, romantic, science-fiction-friendly details of a science that has much more to offer,I don't think Overbye have his knuckles rapped for being indulging in a little thought-experiment. He keeps the tone light right through, and the article's final sentence reads like a punchline, coloring the rest of the piece as a sort of intellectual joke, not serious science reporting.

Maybe the bigger oversight, as this ScienceBlogger points out, is not bringing up an equally playful (yet, I find, somewhat more believable) idea based on the multiple universe interpretation of quantum mechanics: if finding the Higgs could somehow, preposterously destroy the universe, the only universes we would experience would be ones where the LHC failed to start up or got its funding unceremoniously slashed, like the doomed SSC.

Really, the LHC should thank Overbye for doing them an extraordinary service— he's provided the crackpots with a—to them—practically water-tight proof that the LHC can't possibly destroy the universe after all.


  1. As an alternative to Quantum Theory there is a new theory that describes and explains the mysteries of physical reality. While not disrespecting the value of Quantum Mechanics as a tool to explain the role of quanta in our universe. This theory states that there is also a classical explanation for the paradoxes such as EPR and the Wave-Particle Duality. The Theory is called the Theory of Super Relativity and is located at: Super Relativity
    This theory is a philosophical attempt to reconnect the physical universe to realism and deterministic concepts. It explains the mysterious.

  2. I also read astonished the media fuss for this silly paper, when the serious work of scientist warning on the corruption and dangers of CERN goes unpulbished. Unfortuantelly, it’s all simpler, as per Nambu, last year Nobel Prize, the top quark in deconfined state, does all what the higgs does, and since the Universe is efficient it never makes a redundant particle it doesn’t need, thus the top quark is the Higgs. And we won’t find the higgs. So why so much fuss about higgs and the god’s particle? It was pure marketing by leo lederman a smart jewish-american, and the main lobbysist for the industry of atomic cannons, who convinced reagan that both particles were not the same, alas! the standard model was not closed and we still needed after the cold war was over mor of them (lee smolin and zee also proved it – they are the same if we consider a strong field a strong gravitational field in the brans-dicke model). Ergo we won’t find the higgs but produce copious quantities of top quarks and all other type of quarks in deconfined state. This might result in the creation of a bose-einstein condensate of quarks, which can trigger an ice-9 type of reaction and create one of the many possible Einstein frozen stars, strangelets, top quark stars or some other combination of quark dark matter not yet well understood that will blow up the earth. Regarding CERN’s excuses, quarks are not cosmic rays, we never found deconfined quarks in cosmic rays; moons do become black holes; a moon with the mass of a black hole will produce by gravitational lensing, background radiation at 2.7k, the most common radiation of the Universe; and quark stars might be all the pulsars and the most likely candidate for dark matter, Machos, 96% of the mass of the Universe. So this might be happening in every planet where retarded, arrogant humans play to be god. Because we don’t see any intelligent signs and there are millions of planets like this (the so-called Fermi paradox, which he stated after seing the A-Bomb: do all planets disappear blow up by physicists?) … What is for sure is that 13 billion $ will be thrown to the garbage because our politicians dont know anything about physics and the industry of nuclear machiens dont understand the cold war is over and there are many other ways to explore safely the universe. Bt in the age of marketing you can sell anything. I am afraid though that God will act exactly in the opposite way as the Fermi paradox proves . Because this planet will become a frozen star and God I am afraid will not interfere. He just selects in a dualist universe the species with higher energy=force, higher information =intelligence, and the harmony of both, E x I = k, called beauty when it is observed in static space and goodness when it is caused by actions in time. Mankind shows these days an absolute lack of strenght, intelligence, beauty and goodness, and so it won’t pass.
    ‘two things i consider infinite, the universe and the stupidity of humans and im not sure of the latter’ mr. einstein. ‘Those who impose truth with power will be the laugh of the Gods’. This paper shows how physicists have become in an age of fiction thought and super-powerful machines dangerous children of thought, and in the Darwinian Universe, a very serious place, hatched babies die by the thousands. The physicist community, would do better revising the papers of cheng in strangelets, of wilczek in quark matter, or my papers in quark holes and mass/time theory that show how very likely is that the Fermi paradox becomes real instead of this kind of silly papers. Your life and the life of the rest of mankind is at stakes, and it is your responsibility and that of the politicians and scientific press that backs them to defend it regardless of personal agendas.

  3. As reported in the Bx. Times Reporter.

    "Psychic relativity" verified by
    senior researchers at Princeton

  4. The enigma of the Higgs boson is clearly recorded, but whither the Higgs research definitions? One possibility has emerged from advanced mathematical analysis which suggests that the timing jump constantly reported could be an indication of a particle related to what has sometimes been referred to as a thermal body. Those elusive particloids lost attention when they quantum jumped unpredictably. Mathematical point set mapping with symmetry variables has imaged thermal bodies, which appear to have relativistic qualities related to spacons. That means the quantum jumps can be accelerative beyond most instrumental observational techniques' resolution, and the modeling approach could be an avenue for contact with Higgs energy. Static heat is complexed to magnetic field-matrix by quantum symmetry numbers, which produces a mix of quantum jumps that resembles incoherence. The Higgs boson postulate may require relativistic quantized space as the local medium distinguishing Higgs thermic particle matrices with magnetic particle inclusions, a swift, flickering structure of variable size. That means the observed Higgson may reverse it's magnetic power by relativistic {Thermic static matrix-Magnetic particle) interplay or interconversion. Workon valued quantum field calculation display 3D images of that sort for excited states when the symmetry numbers included are even-numbered.
    Recent advancements in quantum science have produced the picoyoctometric, 3D, interactive video atomic model imaging function, in terms of chronons and spacons for exact, quantized, relativistic animation. This format returns clear numerical data for a full spectrum of variables. The atom's RQT (relative quantum topological) data point imaging function is built by combination of the relativistic Einstein-Lorenz transform functions for time, mass, and energy with the workon quantized electromagnetic wave equations for frequency and wavelength.

    The atom labeled psi (Z) pulsates at the frequency {Nhu=e/h} by cycles of {e=m(c^2)} transformation of nuclear surface mass to forcons with joule values, followed by nuclear force absorption. This radiation process is limited only by spacetime boundaries of {Gravity-Time}, where gravity is the force binding space to psi, forming the GT integral atomic wavefunction. The expression is defined as the series expansion differential of nuclear output rates with quantum symmetry numbers assigned along the progression to give topology to the solutions.

    Next, the correlation function for the manifold of internal heat capacity energy particle 3D functions is extracted by rearranging the total internal momentum function to the photon gain rule and integrating it for GT limits. This produces a series of 26 topological waveparticle functions of the five classes; {+Positron, Workon, Thermon, -Electromagneton, Magnemedon}, each the 3D data image of a type of energy intermedon of the 5/2 kT J internal energy cloud, accounting for all of them.

    Those 26 energy data values intersect the sizes of the fundamental physical constants: h, h-bar, delta, nuclear magneton, beta magneton, k (series). They quantize atomic dynamics by acting as fulcrum particles. The result is the picoyoctometric, 3D, interactive video atomic model data point imaging function, responsive to keyboard input of virtual photon gain events by relativistic, quantized shifts of electron, force, and energy field states and positions.

    Images of the h-bar magnetic energy waveparticle of ~175 picoyoctometers are available online at with the complete RQT atomic modeling manual titled The Crystalon Door, copyright TXu1-266-788. TCD conforms to the unopposed motion of disclosure in U.S. District (NM) Court of 04/02/2001 titled The Solution to the Equation of Schrodinger.

  5. On Black Holes, Biosphere(s) And All Mass-Formats
    Cosmic Evolution Simplified

    A. A black future
    Without destroying the Earth, the Large Hadron Collider might help humans explore the cosmos

    B. On The Origin And Nature Of Cosmic Evolution:
    It Is Space-Distance, Not Space-Time.
    Life's Is The Ubiquitous Cosmic Evolution Mode.

    The mode of a gene's response to organism-culture's feedback signal, i.e. "replicate without change" or "replicate with change" in case of proven augmented energy constrainment by the offspring, is the mode of Life's normal evolution, which is the mode of evolution universally.

    Genes' Expression Modification

    Again, the scope of of genes lifehood is not just the lifehood of genes.

    Genes, and Life in general, are but one of the forms of mass, of constrained energy formats. The lifehood of genes is the foundation of the subject of evolutionary biology, which is a major component of the subject of life, which is a minute component of the subject of evolution of the universe, which is the subject for which humanity seeks a unified field theory.

    Since the big-bang resolution of E/m superposition ALL the energy of the universe is destined for the galactic clusters expansion plus laying down of the gravity natrix for the eventual cosmic impansion, and ALL the mass is destined to revert to energy for these ends. The mass-to-energy reversion is resisted by the mass, this resistance being the archtype of selection for survival by all materials, including life. This resistance is due, exciting to us, to the fact that - as we know from everyday experience - formation of mass requires investment of energy, that dissipates when the mass disintegrates. And as we also know from everyday experience all energy forms other than gravity end up eventually as gravity energy. This is expected since ALL the contents of the universe are manifestations of the gravity energy freed at Inflation.

    And again, a unified field theory is sought since unlike the evergrowing list of specific science/technology divisions drawn by the "scientists" trade-unions like the AAAS, the universe and Earth evolve as an integrated intertwined interrelated tangled whole and not as a collection of individual divisions.

    C. Updated Physical Evolution Defintion

    1. Three present definitions of physical evolution, at

    - a process of change in a certain direction.

    - a theory that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other preexisting types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in their successive generations, and also the process described by this theory.

    - a process in which the whole universe is a progression of interrelated phenomena.

    2. Suggested updated physical evolution definition, of Life's normal evolution and universal energy-mass evolution.

    a theory, and the process described by it, that the whole universe changes in a progression of interrelated phenomena of mass formats attaining temporary augmented energy constraint in their successive generations with energy drained from other mass formats, to temporarily postpone, survive, reverting of their mass to the cosmic energy fueling the galactic clusters expansion.

    D. Black holes of ALL sizes are constrained-enegy mass formats. Like biosphere(s) they require energy to survive temporarily, to avoid as long as possible their energy used to fuel the ongoing cosmic expansion.

    Dov Henis
    (Comments From The 22nd Century)
    Updated Life's Manifest May 2009
    Implications Of E=Total[m(1 + D)]

  6. Rethink A Basic Physics Tenet

    A. Neutrino quick-change artist caught in the act
    A transformation from one ‘flavor’ to another confirms the elusive elementary particles have mass and suggests a need for new physics.

    B.Each and every particle has mass.
    Dark energy and matter YOK.
    Higgs particle YOK.
    If you are not afraid of embarrassingly obvious answers, rethink a basic tenet, adopt space-distance in lieu of space-time.

    Dov Henis
    (Comments From The 22nd Century)

    Cosmic Evolution Simplified
    Gravity Is The Monotheism Of The Cosmos
    EOTOE.Embarrassingly obvious expanding horizons beyond Darwin And Einstein.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts

How 4,000 Physicists Gave a Vegas Casino its Worst Week Ever

What happens when several thousand distinguished physicists, researchers, and students descend on the nation’s gambling capital for a conference? The answer is "a bad week for the casino"—but you'd never guess why.

Ask a Physicist: Phone Flash Sharpie Shock!

Lexie and Xavier, from Orlando, FL want to know: "What's going on in this video ? Our science teacher claims that the pain comes from a small electrical shock, but we believe that this is due to the absorption of light. Please help us resolve this dispute!"

The Science of Ice Cream: Part One

Even though it's been a warm couple of months already, it's officially summer. A delicious, science-filled way to beat the heat? Making homemade ice cream. (We've since updated this article to include the science behind vegan ice cream. To learn more about ice cream science, check out The Science of Ice Cream, Redux ) Image Credit: St0rmz via Flickr Over at Physics@Home there's an easy recipe for homemade ice cream. But what kind of milk should you use to make ice cream? And do you really need to chill the ice cream base before making it? Why do ice cream recipes always call for salt on ice?