More Ig-Nobel Shenanigans

But this time the Norwegians are not responsible

Reading a hilarious piece in the New York Times about how a couple of physicists are predicting that all attempts to observe the Higgs-Boson particle under experimental conditions are being sabotaged from the future … by the effect of supposedly successfully observing the Higgs-Boson particle under experimental conditions. I.e. the HB-particle is doing the equivalent of travelling back in time and killing its grandfather. Whilst the concept of a particle creating a backward ripple in time is mildly-intriguing, the actual methodology proposed to prove the theory is only slightly less bizarre than the empirical data cited in support of it.

Essentially, the paper written by the physicists goes, if the HB-particle really is sabotaging its own discovery – for example, by causing governments to cut funding to high-energy physics experiments, getting scientists arrested as members of Al Qaeda, etc – then it will deliberately cause the most improbable situation to occur in order to do so. For example, if the decision whether to resume experiments with the Large Hadron Collider were to be made to depend on a card-drawing experiment, the HB-particle will cause the one card in the deck which denotes “do not resume the experiments” to be drawn. This, the physicists argue, would be so even if the deck in question consisted of a million-cards, 999,999 of which were “resume” cards and 1 “don’t resume.”

It is at this point that I spotted the flaw in the physicists’ theory. Not the fact that they were pair of complete barking mad fruit-loops who give Science a bad name: rather – that they had missed a prime chance to turn this into a money-making opportunity.

Card-drawing experiment? Card-drawing experiment??? I can think of a much better idea. One of the authors of the paper, Holger B Nielsen, is actually an employee of CERN, and so presumably would be influential in actually carrying out the LHC experiments. Therefore, all he has to do is to buy a ticket in the Euromillions lottery with the firm intention that if he wins the mega-jackpot he is going to quit his job and retire. Because it is in the HB-particle’s interest that Dr Nielsen be removed from his post at CERN, then surely it will help him win the lottery!

But hang on – Nielsen and his co-author Masao Minimoya have entered a Euro-lottery, albeit where the prize for being right is not quite the scale of the actual Euromillions jackpot but is still a fair old whack. I am talking of course about the Nobel Prize for Physics. If by some extraordinary fluke that Nielsen and Minimoya are proved right, then the implications will be so astounding that they must surely merit it.

Now readers of my previous blog entries will know that I have had some choice words to say about the Nobel Peace Prize – however, this one is completely different. For a start, it is judged by a Swedish panel not Norwegian (the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences). Moreover, assuming that Nielsen and Minimoya could provide convincing proof that they are correct, that would be hard evidence that they did in fact deserve it.

Of course it could turn out that the LHC fails without providing the proof that Nielsen and Minimoya so desire, in which case this could be evidence that the God-particle has a sense of humour.

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