05 July, 2012

Making old men cry


On the surface of things, it might be hard to imagine why the words, "They combine to give us a combined significance of five standard deviations." were important. Yet, once the speaker speaks them, there is a momentary pause, a deep felt wonder, and then the audience explodes in clapping and laughter and a few old men cry. It does seem odd, doesn't it?

Not so, if you realise that what the speaker is saying, unequivocally stating is, "You were right. You aren't insane." And, more importantly, "Our knowledge of how the universe works is now forever changed by a combined significance of five standard deviations." The seats in the auditorium were filled with people whose lives were spent realising that significance. I imagine this new finding gives their lives new meaning.

Whether this finding is/was worth the cazillion dollars it took to find, we will probably not know in our lifetime. Presumably, hopefully, this was not purely done out of intellectual curiosity. Presumably, hopefully, this new-found knowledge can be used toward finding a new form of energy, a cure to cancer, a way to supply clean water to all beings on this earth. It has got to have some far-reaching significance, right?

If you want to know more about what the Higgs boson is, this video does well to give a simple explanation.


Just as an afterthought... It is odd, in Newton's time it took a falling apple to figure out how gravity worked...

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