Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Machine's Warning From The Future: Don't Build It

"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.”

What might happen if a few billion dollars were spent to make a gigantic Supercollider machine, meant to create a particle called a Higgs boson (though no one knows if it really exists or has ever detected one) -- and the machine sends signals back to itself from the future to ensure that it will not work?

That's a theory being offered by a few scientists about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland since efforts to make it work have all failed. Perhaps, they say, the future machine (or maybe the scientific principle it uses) knows more than those of us in the present and are sending back a warning from the future. The machine is set to try once again to create that unique particle in December (the last time they tried to use it, a gigantic magnet in the machine melted.)

The NYTimes offered an essay on the idea of time-traveling anti-colliders this week:

A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal” and “Search for Future Influence From LHC,” posted on the physics Web site in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”

Weird or not, I'm sort of intrigued that some are considering the oddity of the machine's failure.

In the meantime, other scientists, working in China, have successfully constructed a table-top sized Black Hole. Since we are all still here and not been sucked into the vast nothingness (yet) then it is a case of 'so far, so good'. But if messages start popping out of the black hole, I sure hope someone takes good notes about the message it conveys.

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