Sunday, July 8, 2012

Higgs boson?

July 8, 2012

Dear friends,

On August 6, 1945, the front page report in newspapers everywhere described the bombing of Hiroshima, destruction that demonstrated with deadly clarity that the atom had indeed been split.  Thankfully, other less destructive consequences have followed this initial research. This week, July 4, 2012, the New York Times reported on its front page the discovery of a new subatomic particle that appears to be the Higgs boson.

I suspect that the initial response of many readers (including my own) was the question, "What in the world is the Higgs boson? And what is it doing on the front page of the Times?"

Dennis Overbye, a fine NYTimes science writer, described the Higgs boson as the particle predicted by the Standard Model (a theoretical paradigm) to imbue elementary particles with mass. He explained that physicists regard it as “. . . a key to understanding why there is diversity and life in the universe.”

This ‘atomic’ event is regarded as a historic milestone by physicists and was marked by celebration and champagne. News of the discovery has sparked excited speculation in the scientific community regarding potential new understanding of the nature of the universe that may flow from further research.

The sixty-seven years of my life-time that stretch between these two events incorporate major shifts in scientific explanations of the nature of our universe. Change forms an essential dimension of life, of course, one which often provides challenge. I am impressed by the context in which Overbye’s summary placed diversity as the positive consequence of interruption in the rhythms of life. He writes:

"The finding (i.e. of the Higgs bosom) affirms a grand view of a universe described by simple and elegant and symmetrical laws—but one in which everything interesting, like ourselves, results from flaws or breaks in that symmetry."
Thinking with you again this week about Cohen’s line in Anthem:

"There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in."
What would happen if in the difficult and broken times in relationships we shifted the energy focused on blame into passionate search for the new life that may emerge?

See you next week.


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