Phenomenoliogist

The Higgs boson is a hypothetical massive elementary particle that is predicted to exist by the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics.

6a00d83452130269e201156f5952f1970b-800wiMy physics teacher at school was rumored to be an alcoholic, apparently he would drink vodka in a white painted milk bottle in class so everyone would think it was milk. This was my explanation for receiving the mark I did for Physics. It all seemed to make sense at the time, I couldn’t learn physics as a direct result of him being an alcoholic. He would say things to the class which I simply assumed to be the ramblings of a drunken man. It was a foreign language. He would scribble things on the blackboard, little symbols, small apostrophes, lots of X & Y’s with little numbers above them and then turn to the class.

‘Any questions?’

Hmmm, how about fuck yes?

Lets start at the top left hand corner of the board and explain to me what that little angled dash means, if its not just a piece of chalk dust settling on your vodka laced spit.

A good team moves at the speed of the slowest member and in Physics I always felt I was bringing up the rear. It didn’t help that I was sat next to a young boy who ended up lecturing the subject in one of the cloistered establishments down south. I felt inferior, inadequate, thick, stupid and simply blamed it on Mr drunken milkman.

Looking back now, it’s clear to me where the blame lies for my abject failure in Physics. To be clear I never once saw him drink from a milk bottle.

I know the reason and find it quite frustrating when reading, multiple times, the first sentence of this entry as I still cannot understand a single thing they are saying. It is a constant frustration given I know, I absolutely know, that science is cool and that the work a lot of them are doing is unbelievably interesting.

Understanding it first however is an important prerequisite to getting a job in a scientific discipline and I always fall at this early hurdle. I probably need to know what a massive elementary particle is first I think. I am assuming here that ‘massive’ is a relative adjective, given the use of particle after it. This, I think you will agree, is a problem, is the Higgs Bosun massive? Like Elephant massive? Or simply massive relative to other particles which are smaller than, well, everything?

The folks not far from here at CERN buried under Geneva are pushing the boundaries of science, finding shit out about stuff which mankind has been searching for years. Take the search for the illustrious God Particle (aka the Higgs bosun), I have absolutely no idea or even the slightest inkling or what it might be or look like but with a name like that…….come on, who doesn’t want to search for it?

Even Indiana Jones would be tempted.

I just glaze over, ignorant from it all. I try to understand, I really do, but just cant. It’s like someone has built a heavy lead door between me and this knowledge.

Nowadays science is cool, it gets headlines in the papers and the men at the forefront of it aren’t the bearded, wooly jumper types of old, no they are young and good-looking. They like the things I do, football, women, drinking, outdoor stuff but they have the added cool factor of being at the diamond tipped cutting edge of knowledge creation. Had I known what I know now it would have been a close call between football player, rock star or particle physicist as my preferred career choices.

In short, they don’t learn stuff from others, they discover stuff. Going boldly where no man has gone before and I for one am insanely jealous of them.

Every morning I sit at my desk, turn on my computer with a mouthful of croissant and a cup of coffee. I check my agenda for the day and start dealing with mundane emails about mundane things.

They sit at their desks with a mouthful of croissant and coffee and wonder what particle, bosun or space worm hole they will discover today. They get to name stuff, important things like the building blocks of everything we know and can touch – they name the universe.

As I am wondering how to right align all my bullet points on a PowerPoint presentation they are discovering what black holes are made of. I am talking about financial statements and they are figuring out how the big bang happened.

A good proportion of the population believe in creation. They believe that god created everything and put man, in his image, on earth. Everything happens for a reason, normally because god wills it. This is simple and a nice story. I actually wish I had the faith to believe in something so simple and which helps explain everything which happens to me and to the people around me.

Science does not proclaim to have the ultimate answer and I like this. Its much more believable. For every theory developed another one comes along to try to prove it wrong. Its like a welcome competition, an evolving belief system to find the truth.

Perhaps, ironically, at some point in the future it will become a new religion in itself.

I believe that anything which challenges the existent beliefs or thinking of its time has to be a good thing. Rock and roll did it, moving pictures did it, archeology has done it, the railways did it, Darwin certainly did it and science has always been doing it, it just seems to me to be doing it a lot more now. Or at least the people doing it look better.

Is science the new rock and roll?

Probably not but its not that far removed and looking back its close enough to wish I hadn’t giggled at my teachers drunken ramblings and took the time to work out what the little ç sign meant.

Then, and only then, would I even have stood a chance of understanding ‘quantum chromodynamics’ and maybe if I was really good I would be able to pronounce ‘phenomenologist’ correctly.

Jklljaayavik

4-20-2010 10-16-37 PMYou learn something new everyday.

It is 10am in the morning and already I have learned loads. The WIFI on ICE602 Basel – Dortmund high speed train is not switched on, the Kasabian album I purposely loaded onto my i-pod for the trip doesn’t work and that Scipio and Hannibal actually met each other and had a discussion before they readied their respective armies for battle, just before the fall of Carthage.
Random knowledge and, unless you are reading this before getting on the 602 from Basel expecting to do some work or quietly going about your business in Carthage in 146BC, is most probably useless knowledge.

In 2006 during the World Cup I learned that someone from the Ivory Coast is called Ivorian and last Thursday I learned that people who study volcanoes are called Volcanologist. The first time I heard this on the news I looked up expecting to see a man with a bird of prey on his arm. Of course the Icelandic volcano debris which has caused so much chaos over Europe is the reason these people are having their day in the sun. Unfortunately Vulcanology I would imagine is a very particular career. Not one I would assume young/cool people aspire to and that is the reason we have been subjected to the disturbing images of beardy men & women on prime time news talking to us in squeaky voices about the infinately unpronouncable Eyjafjallajoekull glacier in Iceland.

How the hell did a glacier end up with a name like that by the way? Is there any sort of sane naming convention up there? My bet is there is none and no-one actually named this Glacier. Someone rested his/her arm on the keyboard and the output somehow made it onto the Glacier Naming Form (GNF) in the same screwed up way an out of office in Welsh made it onto a road sign. Another theory could be that it didnt have a name until it started erupting last week and then the Icelanders, still pissed from the banking meltdown last year, decided to make life very, very, difficult for our news reporters.

No problem for our beardy types though. I reckon somewhere in the world there is a good looking, Geoff Goldblum type. In his slightly eccentric way he has been running around for the past month trying to warn the great & the good about this eruption. He tried time and again to warn the world’s leaders about the impending doom but they were too busy with minor political matters to listen. Only now they are turning to him for advice but it is too late, he is too busy dodging lava flows with his cutesy children in Iceland and doing live reports exclusively for Fox News.

This is why we are left with Mr Turbot, leading Volcanologist from Hull Polytechnic to grace our SKY, BBC and ITV screens. He is a busy man, even the birds who were nesting on his face have migrated to a nearby Tsunami expert in the hope of some peace and quiet

Imagine a world where only birds were the masters of the sky.
A world where we take our time to get from A-B. A trip from Southern Europe to, say, the UK would take a day or two. A visit to the USA would be a week and Australasia would be a couple of weeks. The food on our plate would be locally grown and sourced. The great shipyards of the world would once again churn out floating leviathans and all our electronics would be manufactured from either the country it is sold in or very nearby. Most evenings would be spent with the family around the dinner table telling stories. Family values would return and crime would decrease. The art of reading would once again become important, the ozone would be intact and white rhinos would once again be safe to gore things at will.
The skies would be peaceful, birds would sing and bees would buzz and the pace of life would slow down.

There are at least a couple of problems with this Utopia:

1. I just made it up
2. Have you ever used a TV made in the UK? If you have you will be like me and want your i-pods designed in California and made in China and want to eat fresh lettuce/papaya/something exotic in January.

So Mr Turbot, you have had your 15mins of fame and a very interesting “what if” exercise it has been too. Yes we now realize how powerful nature is and how easily it can bring us into check. Now that that has been agreed can you please pop up to Iceland, earn your money and do whatever it is you do to shut the fucking thing up.

Whilst you are at it please set the timer for 200years until the next occurrence please. This should give us enough time to invent an instant transportation machine and allow us to blow raspberries in Mother Nature’s direction again next time she decides to have a go.

Thank you.