I noticed something interesting about the
discovery of the Higgs Boson. It wasn’t the discovery itself, it was the
reaction of physicists to that discovery that struck me. In particular, so many
of the scientists clamoured to be wrong. I shall explain.
A number of physicists who were interviewed
expressed the thought, in various ways, that they hoped that the Higgs Boson
turned out to have properties INCONSISTENT with the STANDARD MODEL. That is, they were clamouring to be wrong. They wanted their existing theory to be
overturned and be shown to be incorrect by the new discovery. Indeed, the famed
Stephen Hawking had bet good money that the Higgs Boson would not be discovered
– because he hoped that science would be proven wrong in its present models,
because, I inferred, science is at its most interesting, when it is
wrong-footed. It is in such times, that great advances in understanding are
made. So, it is, that all these physicists want to be shown wrong. They want,
in short, to usher in times of uncertainty and discovery and new thought and
experiment and theory. They want intellectual excitement in their lives. Were
the Higgs Boson to be proved to be exactly as expected then none of these
things would happen. It would be business as usual. The world would continue
much as it had before and they would have no surprises to wake up to each
morning. The physicists didn’t want that. They wanted to live in revolutionary
times. They were tired of stasis.
I rather feel that many branches of science
will, in time, be filled with scientists thinking much like those physicists.
As science matures and ignorance recedes, there will be the growing feeling
that there is much less left to understand – that no big revolutions lie ahead.
Thus, it is, that science will become less interesting for its practitioners. I
cannot say if science has already reached that stage, but it is not difficult
to feel that it cannot be far off for some branches of science, if it is not
Scientists want to feel intellectually
alive. To do so, they need times of change and challenge. Only, therefore,
discovery that they were wrong, would usher in such times, assuredly. It would
show them that they need to go back to the drawing board and begin again. Such
a thought, does not tire them, but invigorates them. They wish to really live
the life of the mind and to breathe its fresh thoughts.
In a way, I hope that the physicists get their
wish – because times of change are exciting for the spectator, too – as I now
am to that branch of science. Just to witness novel thoughts and theories, is a
pleasure for those who appreciate matters of the mind. So, let us hope that the
discovery of the Higgs Boson has some surprises for us. Let us hope it ushers
in a new and deeper, richer, more complex understanding of the world – and with
it brings us new powers over nature, that, I hope, we use wisely.
Just as the discovery of the electron
ultimately led to electronics, perhaps the discovery of the Higgs Boson will
lead to technologies of mass manipulation – which would obviously be both
powerful and exciting in their applications: flying cities, anyone? The
possibilities are as endless as our dreams. I shall watch the tale of the Higgs
Boson with great anticipation – and so, too, I hope shall all Mankind. It could
portend a very different world, indeed.
Posted by Valentine Cawley
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Labels: a new Renaissance, natural scientist, Physics, scientific future, the future of science, the laws of physics