Friday, October 15, 2009
On Tuesday, an essay by Dennis Overbye in the New York Times discussed a recent physics theory. Depending on your convictions,
it's either the most terrifying scientific theory of all time, or the silliest (I vote for silliest). Holger Nielsen, of the
Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto Japan explain
their theory in a series of papers in arXiv.org. According to the authors, any machine attempting to create the Higgs boson will
have big trouble. Why? God just doesn't like the Higgs. Because he's God he
doesn't have to explain why. He has decided to run time backward and stop
the Higgs from being produced. So he undid the SSC in Texas in the summer of 1992; he started on the LHC a year ago. This is
powerful stuff. I'm looking into whether it could explain why trees fall when they do.
The plot in Dan Brown's novel "Angels and Demons" is to use the collider to make an antimatter bomb to blow up the Vatican, but
this week the French police arrested a nuclear physicist at CERN on suspicion that he had links to terrorist organizations in
Algeria. According to Dennis Overbye in the New York Times, the suspect is Adlene Hicheur, a French particle physicist born in
Algeria, who was studying differences between matter and antimatter. As difficult as it is to make even a little antimatter, it
would be far more difficult to use it in a bomb. The problem would not be to get it to explode, but to keep it from exploding
prematurely. Even al- Qaeda is not that dumb. Most likely Hicheur's job was just to supply al- Qaeda with targets in France.
Millions sat on the edge of our chairs to watch this once-in-a-lifetime spectacular. Over and over the TV audience was shown a
simulation of a rocket plunging into a deep crater near the lunar South Pole and ejecting a mighty plume of rocket fuel. Uh,
there was actually supposed to be water in the plume, along with stuff, but NASA sort of blurs the
distinction: "If we have water it can be separated into hydrogen and oxygen." But doesn't that require a lot of energy? "Yes.
But there's sunlight on the Moon, so we'll put sosolar power plants up there. That will give us the fuel to get to Mars, and
when we find water on Mars we'll use that for the return flight." Back to the present, we began holding our breath as the final
seconds counted down to impact. "Bull's-eye," NASA exulted! We looked at each other. Had I blinked at the wrong time? We are
now told that, "The spectra is where the information is. Determining whether there was water in the invisible plume will take
weeks or months."
I hardly can wait.
In neural imaging, as well as molecular and behavioral genetics, progress in recent years could have turned psychology into a
robust science. But a recent study found that a high proportion of practitioners consider scientific evidence to be less
important than their personal clinical experience. An editorial in yesterday's Nature found the field in danger of becoming as
irrelevant as Freud.