Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Geek'd: sheldon cooper is the reason i've heard of the higgs-boson particle

That sound you hear is Sheldon Cooper celebrating with joy.

Or maybe screaming in rage that he wasn't the one to make the discovery.

That is, if Sheldon Cooper was an actual person and not simply a character in a very popular comedy series on CBS.

So apparently the real "Sheldon Coopers" of our reality - specifically those working in particle physics at the CERN super-collider - has made one of it's biggest actual finding since Einstein's days of genius.

The Higgs-boson particle, a.k.a. the "God" particle has been theorized since the 1960s, and is a theoretical particle that is considered to be the key to understanding why matter has mass, which when combined with gravity gives objects weight.

It's the missing piece in the Standard Model, a theory that explains electricity, light, perhaps even gravity.

In layman's terms, it is this reality's version of the number 42; that is, it is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

(And yes, I did absolutely make a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference)

They've been searching for it since it was theorized. But it has only been since the creation of the CERN super-collider in Switzerland that scientists could seek it out in actuality rather than simply write about its necessary existence.

And this week, they have announced that they have discovered a boson that may be "the" Higgs-boson theorized, a discovery that would certainly make every physicist in the world drool.

Now, they haven't definitively declared it "the" Higgs-boson, simply that it is "a" Higgs-boson, but they say that there is only a one in a million chances that they are wrong because of all the repetitions they have done smashing particles together to find it.

Now, I am not a fan of particle physics, or any physics of any kind. I quit that subject in Grade 12 and has avoided it ever since.

But... I really like the Big Bang Theory and its nerdy physicists (and one engineer) so despite caring not one whit about physics in general, you do pick up some knowledge here and there about the topic... mostly names and some ideas. And in this show, names generally indicate some kind of significant aspect of the subjects they study.

Case and point: Schrodinger's cat.

So reading the word "Higgs-boson" in the newspapers this week definitely triggered the knowledge that osmosis'd into me by watching said show and led me to read the articles where in most other situations I would probably have not bothered with making that time to read and learn even more about it.

And then there's the CERN Hadron collider in Switzerland. While yes, Big Bang Theory plays a role in me knowing why it's amazing and important in the physics world, it isn't where I first heard of or discovered its existence and what it does.

I have, admittedly, Dan Brown and his book Angels and Demons to thank for gaining that knowledge. (The movie did nothing for me)

Although, and this is no lie, Brown decided to explain the search for the "Higgs-boson" in layman's terms, simply calling it the "God" particle with no actual mention of it being the theory of the Higgs-boson particle. So until this week, I didn't realize both were one and the same.

All I knew about the Higgs-boson was that Sheldon Cooper used it in Pictionary and therefore is an important theory in theoretical physics.

The things you learn (or is ignorant of) thanks to the media and its ways of speaking to its audience.

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