Thursday, July 5, 2012


Like many others, I find myself endlessly fascinated by the historic discovery of the Higgs Boson, the so-called "God particle" that is responsible for the creation of mass  of any kind.  "Without it," as David Horsey writes in today's Los Angeles Times, "the universe would fly apart and we would have much more to worry about than a jobless recovery, immigrants sneaking across the border or the fate of "Obamacare."

This is good news, of course, because there is enough chaos in my life without the universe flying apart.  Nonetheless, it's important to keep the Higgs Boson discovery in  perspective.  According to my understanding, the discovery does not change the fact that ninety-six percent of the universe, referred to by cosmologists as dark matter and dark energy, remains unknown and will probably never be known. Moreover, as Horsey writes in his fine LA Times article, there is more to human life than the subatomic particles:

Things so small and things so big boggle the human mind.  Immediately, they conjure the ultimate unanswered questions: If all matter is given mass by the Higgs boson, where did the Higgs boson come from?  It has been nicknamed the "God particle" because it makes everything else possible; did God make it?  If so, where did God come from?  Did this all start with a Big Bang and without a creator?  What set off the Big Bang? And what came before it?  And before that?
The news about the "God particle" is one of those challenging bits of information that can make everything else feel terrifyingly insignificant.  It is a reminder that each of us is merely a tiny, carbon-based organism existing for a brief moment on a small planet that, by the scale of the universe, is no more singular than a grain of sand on a beach.  We are dust in the wind, utterly inconsequential in the dark expanse of time and space.
At least that's one way to look at it.  Another way to see it is that, in all that vastness, only we are aware of the awesome complexity.  Only we strive to know and understand.  All the rest is mere physical phenomena.  What we do in our brief lives on this small planet may be the only thing that matters.
Thus, it behooves us to use our sliver of time well.  We can waste it watching "Dancing With The Stars" or we can reach for the stars.  We can squander it being petty, cruel, selfish or destructive, or we can be creative, compassionate, kind and just.  The Higgs boson may glue this universe together, but we are the ones who give it meaning.
The "God particle" has a big job to do in the infinity of the universe, but on Earth, as John F. Kennedy said, "God's work must be truly our own."
Yes, we may be little more than dust in the wind from a cosmological standpoint, but "what we do in our brief lives on this small planet may be the only thing that matters."  Now there is a thought that makes me want to stand up, applaud, and sip champagne with the discoverers of Higgs Boson.