Predictions are dicey…at best. Therefore, I tend to eschew predictions in favor of simply focusing on what is directly observable. Not only is it less risky, but it is generally also more interesting. However, there is a glaring area with some might interesting observable data that almost screams out for someone to make the next logical leap and predict the near inevitable. And that area is particle physics.
Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the elementary subatomic constituents of matter and radiation and the interactive relationship between them. That means “the study of atoms” to you and I. And the latest great mystery to be solved in particle physics is “Why do things have mass?” Or, in other words, “Why do things exist at all?”.
For particle physicists, the overwhelmingly accepted answer to these questions is that there is this mysterious, as yet unseen particle dubbed the “Higgs Boson” that gives neutrons, protons, electrons and every other elementary particle mass, which in turn gives everything in the entire universe mass and hence what makes it possible for anything to “exist” at all. The search for this Higgs Boson is so important to particle physicists that they spent about 14 years and $10 billion dollars building and subsequently repairing the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to smash proton beams together in search of the elusive Higgs Boson.
Unfortunately, it is highly likely; if not a near certainty, that the Higgs Boson does not exist at all or at the very least isn’t going to turn out to be what the particle physicists expect. I say this with the utmost confidence. Why do I say this and how can I be so confident? Well, you see, the problem is that particle physicists as a whole are not very bright. I realize that this may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, seeing as how particle physicists would appear to the casual observer to have “unlocked the secrets of the atom” and so on and so forth. But, if one takes a closer look at the historical evidence, one can immediately come to the conclusion that the history of particle physics is not a series of grand successes, but really a series of spectacular failures.
The abject failures of particle physicists start with its inception. In the 19th century, John Dalton, through his work on stoichiometry, concluded that each element of nature was composed of a single, unique type of particle. Dalton and his contemporaries believed these were the fundamental particles of nature and thus named them atoms, after the Greek word atomos, meaning “indivisible”. Not only was Mr. Dalton wrong, he was way, way off the mark. Subsequent experimentation proved that each element was NOT composed of a single, unique type of particle, but that all elements were composed of the same kind of particles. Notice that “s” on the end of particle? Oh yeah, near the end of the century, physicists discovered that atoms were not, in fact, the fundamental particles of nature, but conglomerates of even smaller particles and hence the term “atom” is a complete misnomer since they are, in point of fact, divisible. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Japanese, they will tell it to you straight. So, in the end, John Dalton = FAIL!
The next great particle physicist “genius” to come along was one Ernest Rutherford. This guy had his two lackeys, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden, fire alpha particles through a sheet of very thin gold foil. Rutherford, and the rest of his colleagues, expected all of the alpha particles to pass straight through the gold foil, thereby proving the “plum pudding model” of the oops, it’s divisible, atom. The plum pudding model of the atom, first put forth by J. J. Thomson, proposed that the atom was composed of negatively charged electrons contained within an immaterial sphere of uniform positive charge. However, what Rutherford found was that a certain, small percentage of the alpha particles did not pass through the gold foil but instead actually bounced back at angles much larger than 90 degrees. Hence, the plum pudding model of the atom was disproved as the actual physical evidence overwhelmingly pointed to the fact that atoms contained a dense, positively charged center or nucleus. Therefore, J. J. Thomson = FAIL! Ernest Rutherford = FAIL!
Not content with simply splitting the atom, particle physicists decided instead to simply bash them together and this led to a series of particle colliders being built in the 60’s followed by 50-60 years of trying to interpret the results. By way of explanation, a particle collider spins proton beams in opposite directions and then crosses the beams in order to bash protons together. The LHC is simply the biggest and baddest version of this. However, when physicists bashed subatomic particles together, it didn’t exactly turn out as planned. Instead of finding a nice, neat orderly universe of sub-subatomic particles, what they found instead was a bewildering “particle zoo” of hundreds of particles. The next half-decade finally seemed to make some sense of this, producing the “Standard Model”, which breaks the hundreds of particles down into Fermions (Quarks and Leptons) and Bosons.
The “Standard Model” is essentially a theory that explains the fundamental building blocks of nature and the fundamental forces of nature, the electromagnetic, weak and strong nuclear interactions. Unfortunately, the Standard Model cannot explain gravity, dark matter or dark energy. It fails to correctly account for neutrino oscillations and the fact that they have non-zero masses. In fact, in the Standard Model, neutrinos HAVE to be mass-less, but they aren’t. And finally, the Standard Model gives rise to the strong CP problem (why there is matter in the universe versus equal amounts of matter and antimatter) and the hierarchy problem (otherwise known as “where did all the mass go?”). The bottom line? Standard Model = FAIL! Modern particle physicists = FAIL!
So, taken as a whole, the history of particle physics is really the story of abject and utter failure in predicting, well, pretty much anything. Now, to be fair, the history of particle physics does include some relatively minor predictive successes, most notably Paul Dirac’s prediction of antimatter by way of the electron antiparticle, the positron. But, when it comes to the “big” predictions, the predictions that will explain the fundamental nature of matter, there is only failure after failure after absolute and complete failure. Therefore, if past behavior is in any way a prediction of future behavior, then the odds of the particle physicists being correct about the Higg’s boson is slim to none.
But, I can already sense the vague hint of skepticism still ingrained in the cynic (read the theoretical particle physicist that is reading this right now). I can hear it now, “Well, history isn’t necessarily a good predictor of the future.” “Well, none of this proves that particle physicists aren’t very bright, scientists expect failure.” Or even “Well, the true genius of scientists is not the predictions they make but rather the experiments they envision to prove or disprove those predictions.” So…let’s wrap this up and put the final nail in the coffin of the Higg’s boson.
Think about the “brilliance” of particle physicists. Sure, they are constantly wrong but think about how smart they are in terms of the experiments they have invented to test their hypotheses. Think about it, for the last 100 years or so, starting with Ernest Rutherford, the “genius” particle physics experiments have consisted of smashing particles into things or each other. To put this in context, this would be like a couple cavemen trying to figure out how a car operates by smashing two automobiles into one another at high speed. Think about that. Think about how likely those cavemen are to be able to figure out how a car works by analyzing broken and fused chunks of metal from the cars’ engines. The phrase “when hell freezes over” comes to mind.
Let’s face it, the odds of cavemen being able to figure out how a car works by smashing them together is effectively nonexistent. And that is exactly what today’s particle physicists are, cavemen smashing cars together. I don’t mean this solely metaphorically either, I mean this pejoratively as well, in the most pejorative manner possible. Just how smart can you be if when trying to figure out how something works the best “experiment” you can come up with is…“Heck, let’s just smash it and see what’s inside?” This is Neanderthal-level intellect. And yet this is the best that the “brilliant” minds in particle physics can come up with, the intellectual reasoning of a caveman or 3-year old trying to figure out how a toy works? Sad. Truly sad beyond belief. All hail the most “brilliant” minds in science.
Just thank your lucky stars that not all scientists have the intellectual reasoning capacity of small furry rodents like particle physicists. I can just imagine if other scientific disciplines had similarly intellectually ungifted individuals. “We need to figure out why the Earth is warming…let’s smash it into Mars and find out.” “Gee, look at this incredibly huge, fossilized bone…let’s smash it.” Morons.
And THAT boys and girls is why there is no “magical” particle that physicists will find to explain everything. Because even if they do find the Higgs Boson, it will almost undoubtedly lead to more questions than answers or not quite be what they expected to find. It’s because particle physicists aren’t very bright. In fact, the only brilliant people involved in the whole thing are the engineers that figured out how to build their $10 billion dollar caveman car smasher.
Oh, and one other small, teensy weensy detail. Particle physicists have already admitted defeat with their LHC in finding the Higgs boson. They’ve already admitted that their search will likely require the construction of a new $10 billion machine to conduct “an entirely new sort of experiment”. What is this evolutionary machine and experiment that will once again prove the brilliance of particle physicists? It is the “International Linear Collider” or ILC. With the ILC, particle physics takes a quantum leap forward. Pun intended. You see, instead of spinning protons around in circles and then bashing them together, this “ingenious” device will simply bash them directly into one another. You can’t make this stuff up folks.
Originally published November 2011