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The news from Switzerland is very bad

(Or: where did that Higgs particle get to?)

John Lowell 3 June 2007

The standard model’s gang agley

Among the high energy physics community there’s a mood of black despair;
the professors at the European Centre for Nuclear research are wishing they weren’t there.
The Large Hadron Collider was switched on last week amid scenes of pomp and jollity,
much drinking of champagne, speech-making, and miscellaneous frivolity.

Wheeeeee...owwww go the hadrons, racing round and round according to plan
like the daredevil motorcylists of the TT circuit on the Isle of Man.
And colliding splat they scatter debris under the computers’ eagle eyes
and the physicists watch all this, like stout Cortez’s men, with a wild surmise:

Because among all the quarks and neutrinos and mesons and the occasional mini black hole
there’s one particle they can’t find and it’s one with a particular and very significant role,
namely the one required for symmetry-breaking so that everything can have mass
without which (as will be clear even to laypersons) things will come to a pretty pass.

As the chief of the scientists came running down the tunnel to explain
(he was seen to take great bounding strides like Neil Armstrong on the lunar plain),
he said, “let me not prevaricate, let me give it to you straight
if there isn’t any mass and Newton and Einstein are halfway competent then there isn’t any weight.”

The administrators at the emergency press conference were less honest - they said it wasn’t true,
desperately and pathetically attempting a cover-up by coating the journalists' chairs with glue.
But it didn’t work, they were already almost weightless, floating as light as air
as it became more and more apparent that the Higgs particle simply wasn’t there.

And floating around Peter Higgs’ department in Edinburgh there’s an angry Scottish mob
shouting “Doon wi’ yon glaikit bletherskite Higgs, he disna ken his job” and
“Yon string theory’s a muckle tangle the noo, the standard model’s gang agley.”
Nobody’s down to earth now, and the sun and planets are wandering away;

The Fellows of the Royal Society and Washington's Academy of Sciences
valiantly try to maintain their gravity in free fall, and to keep their delicate balances.