The Time-Travelling Higgs Boson

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I just read one of the most fascinating articles I’ve ever read. The Large Hadron Collider, designed to replicate the conditions within a trillionth of a second after the Big Bang to attempt to find the elusive Higgs Boson has been plagued with bad luck. Two theoretical physicists are postulating that it is because to create a free Higgs Boson would be so anathema to the universe, the Higgs Boson (a quantum particle thought to imbue all matter with mass) is actually travelling back in time and influencing probability to ensure bad luck for the Collider.

Dr. Nielsen admits that he and Dr. Ninomiya’s new theory smacks of time travel, a longtime interest, which has become a respectable research subject in recent years. While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus. Although just why the Higgs would be a catastrophe is not clear. If we knew, presumably, we wouldn’t be trying to make one.

We always assume that the past influences the future. But that is not necessarily true in the physics of Newton or Einstein. According to physicists, all you really need to know, mathematically, to describe what happens to an apple or the 100 billion galaxies of the universe over all time are the laws that describe how things change and a statement of where things start. The latter are the so-called boundary conditions — the apple five feet over your head, or the Big Bang.

The equations work just as well, Dr. Nielsen and others point out, if the boundary conditions specify a condition in the future (the apple on your head) instead of in the past, as long as the fundamental laws of physics are reversible, which most physicists believe they are.

“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.”

To quote Neils Bohr, “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate [NYTimes]

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