The Higgs Boson discovery has been the talk of the week. Is it useful? Peter Higgs, the guy credited with first predicting the Boson in 1964, himself said,
It’s probably about a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second. I don’t know how you apply that to anything useful.
Maybe he’s just being modest. There seems to be a lot of excitement. Click here for a light hearted look at the Higgs. But why does it matter?
My simple mind craves relatable analogies. This Justin Bieber analogy helped me. Imagine a street scene with a group of teenagers standing still, each one representing a particle, independent and weightless. If Justin Bieber walked down the street, the teenagers would be drawn to him like a magnet. Suddenly the whole group would have mass (and life, and likely more than a little hysteria). As one they would move up and down the street, an irresistible force. In the analogy the arrival of Bieber triggers the Higgs Field just as it was triggered soon after the Big Bang. The Higgs Boson is a particle of the Higgs Field. In the street scene, each of the swooning teens is like a particle that now has mass. Biebs is the Boson.
I’m really excited about this, and hopefully with good reason. It seems to fit with the way I’ve seen the world for a long time. Star Wars Obi Wan Kenobi seemed to intuit this development decades ago when he said,
The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us.
If I understand it correctly, the Higgs Boson is The Force, the particle that gives people power, the molecule that gives matter mass. Without mass, matter wouldn’t matter. It is the match that lit the Big Bang, the energy field that surrounds and fills all living things with LIFE.
I’m excited because it directs us to two of the most important human questions. As the Talking Heads song said, “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”
Where did we come from? And why are we here?
Religious creation myths were quaint, pre-scientific attempts by ancient people to wrestle with these same questions. People have always wondered about these things. If a new creation myth was crafted today, it would surely include the Boson (and maybe even Biebs!). We wonder where we came from as part of the much larger question of purpose. Why are we here?
What a privilege to live at this time in history when we are so aware of our own evolution. It’s amazing enough that nature created life out of tiny, raw materials like particles. To think that our brains and technology have evolved to the point where we can observe a process that mimics the Big Bang is incredible. AND to think that we have evolved to the point where we can think about purpose is phenomenal.
Here is my take home point about the Higgs discovery. Live with pervasive awareness of the privilege and joy of being alive and connected to all things, all the way back to the Big Bang. Fill the most mundane things you do with this large perspective. Consciousness is to every day decisions as Higgs Boson was to matter; it gives them life and direction. We are here to expand our consciousness, to include more and more perspectives, people and possibilities. We are here to live lives that matter; not to put weight on but to give more weight to things that last. We are here to live more fully IN the moment, more mindful of our impact and responsibility. The Higgs discovery is not the end point. The world is still full of mystery. There is always more to come. The opportunity we have now is to make this latest discovery count for something significant while we wait with bated breath for further surprises from science.
As Albert Schweitzer said,
True philosophy must start from the most immediate and comprehensive fact of consciousness: ‘I am life that wants to live, in the midst of life that wants to live.
Click here for an article about the connection between Higgs Boson and immigration issues.