Monday, October 19, 2009

Collider gearing up for bizarre test

by Dennis Overbye

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world's biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang.

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I'm not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I'm talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with such titles as "Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal" and "Search for Future Influence From LHC," posted on the physics Web site in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

"It must be our prediction that all Higgs-producing machines shall have bad luck," Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Nielsen said of the theory, "Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God." It is their guess, he went on, "that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them."

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the U.S. Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Nielsen calls it an "anti-miracle."

No comments: