Much has already been written about the hilarious proposal that the recently-apparently-discovered particle called the Higgs Boson (you know, [what’s a boson?] the one sometimes called “God Particle” by people who don’t know much about particles) be selected as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2012. Well, I hope it wins, so that, as justice requires, it can finally be allowed to donate unlimited amounts of its money to U.S. election campaigns, just like U.S corporations, which, as you know, are people too. And I think this would also mean that Higgs bosons could finally get married, though I’m not entirely sure about the legality of whether they could marry each other… (recall the Higgs particle is its own anti-particle.)
But the hilarity became that much greater when Time magazine listed its various nominees and (as many have pointed out) described the Higgs particle in five glowing sentences, each of which contains at least one spectacular scientific or historical error. (Indeed, when I saw this, I assumed I was reading the Onion — maybe that’s where Time, following the lead of China’s famous newspaper Particles’ Daily, got this description? — though the Onion has been strangely quiet on the subject of the Higgs up to now.) The Higgs boson is candidate #18 out of 40, and I encourage you, in order to fully appreciate the company that it now keeps in the upper echelons of our society, to look at #17 and #19. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that Time avoids the term “God Particle”, which would be praiseworthy under better circumstances.
So — a quiz for the reader. Can you identify five God-Particle-worthy errors in this piece from Time? Extra credit if you can find six or more. It’s an open-book test; you can use this website for insights.
The Higgs Boson
Take a moment to thank this little particle for all the work it does, because without it, you’d be just inchoate energy without so much as a bit of mass. What’s more, the same would be true for the entire universe. It was in the 1960s that Scottish physicist Peter Higgs first posited the existence of a particle that causes energy to make the jump to matter. But it was not until last summer that a team of researchers at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider — Rolf Heuer, Joseph Incandela and Fabiola Gianotti — at last sealed the deal and in so doing finally fully confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity. The Higgs — as particles do — immediately decayed to more-fundamental particles, but the scientists would surely be happy to collect any honors or awards in its stead.