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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Is the Higgs boson sabotaging the hadron colliders from the future?

Sounds silly, crazy, absurd... but that's what two respectable physicists, Holger B. Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya have proposed to test... using a huge card deck of 5 million cards.

Ok, this sounds even more crazy. And even more that Mr. Nielsen seems to be the person who is going to be in charge of the LHC of Geneva in no time... that is unless this paper gets him fired.

Holger Nielsen (from Wikipedia)

According to this hypothesis the Higgs boson, the ultra-elusive so-called "God particle" that is central to Quantum Mechanics, cannot be uncovered and hence all efforts to do so are doomed because the future conspires against them, causing to them such unusual bad luck that they fail even when they should not, like the Texas particle accelator that saw its funding cut when a fourth of it was already built. According to Nielsen, this is an anti-miracle, surely caused because God hates Higgs bosons and the physics related with them.

Sure: totally crazy. But the paper is out there in PDF format: Search for Effect of Influence from Future in Large Hadron Collider and blogs and scientific media are paying attention to it, though with a good deal of disbelief or looking for the funny side of the story, what is about the same.

Some say they have gone crackpot, others that it is a prank... and, apart of the more neutral but disbelieving attitude of the media, no one seems to give a dime for the hypothesis. I imagine that, if the rumor about Nielsen been set as next director of the LHC are correct (could not confirm them), the actual reason behind this theory, that he just wants to call the attention to funding issues at the LHC and is doing it in a provocative manner with his firend and colleague Ninomiya.

But modern physics are sometimes so extremely bizarre that one wonders if they could be in fact unto something. According to Wikipedia, that is always right except when it's wrong, the pair of scientists are famous for the "Nielsen-Ninomiya no-go theoreme for representing chiral fermions of the lattice". Sounds bizarre but the lattice is a real thing in physics and maths, though I won't pretend I have any idea about it. Nielsen's home page also shows that, among his interests, the lattice holds a prominent place: Lattice Quantum Gravity and Chaos in Yang-Mills Lattice.

So is it even remotely possible that, while it looks like a prank, Nielsen and Ninomiya have in fact hinted, while looking for the Higgs boson, at Destiny? Or in other words, is this a bizarre but realistic window into the frame of spacetime beyond the constrains of our human 3i-dimensional perception? Among Nielsen's interests also is something that I'm quite concerned about: why do we have three plus one dimensions? Or, rather what is hidden behind this apparently simple frame?

As the NYT article puts it:
“For those of us who believe in physics,” Einstein once wrote to a friend, “this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.”
However, I have a real problem with the proposed experiment: it cannot be replicated. Each time anyone draws a card from the proposed 5 million cards stack, the odds are that the "death card", the only one that would prove the hypothesis correct, are immensely small so the odds of falsification are clearly very high. But what happens if the "death card" is drawn in experiment A and not in experiment B?

So guess it's just a prank.

Main references: New Scientist, New York Times.

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