The Higgs Boson is making big news this week. Why? Because science has proven that it exists. Previously, it was only suspected to exist. Science is beside itself with joy. (And in particle physics, it is literally possible to be beside yourself…at least theoretically.)
I confess I was one of the doubters. OK, worse than that. I was a Higgs boson denier. For years, I’ve been walking around muttering, “Higgs boson? Bah! That’s just crazy talk. Power up all the hadron colliders you want; it ain’t there.”
All right, I was wrong. I apologize.
The next questions that arise, of course, are, 1) what the hell is a Higgs boson? and 2) Did a Higgs boson have anything to do with Chief Justice Roberts’ weird back-and-forth wobbling in the Obamacare decision?
To answer the all-important what-is-it question, we turn to the foremost authority on all matters: Wikipedia. Here is the actual beginning of the Wikipedia page on the Higgs boson:
In the Standard Model of particle physics, the Higgs boson is an elementary particle that is the quantum excitation of the Higgs field. The non-zero value of the ground state of this field gives mass to the other elementary particles such as quarks and electrons through the Higgs mechanism.
Notice how right after the words “elementary particle,” the explanation careens from English into Totally Incomprehensible? Believe me, the rest of the article doesn’t get any better.
At this point, there is only one option for the non-particle physicists among us: Give up. It’s painfully clear that we have no hope of ever understanding what a Higgs boson is. It is pointless to try.
(The fact that it’s sometimes called “the God particle” doesn’t help, either. Every scientist asked about the God thing says, in an annoyed tone of voice, that it’s just a lazy journalist’s metaphor, one that hopelessly misunderstands the true nature of the Higgs boson. So you have to be a God Particle atheist.)
I know it’s not easy to admit that one is too dumb to understand something as crucial to the workings of our universe as the Higgs boson, but trust me, to do so is the first step on the path to true peace of mind.
But I don’t want to leave you with nothing here so I’m going to impart to you a piece of scientific knowledge that is not only easy to understand but that has immense practical value. Especially now.
Regularly clean your air-conditioner filters!
Because if you don’t, the crud will build up until it kills the motor and you’ll have to spend $650 on a new air conditioner.
Guess how I found that out.