It is with a heavy heart that this column returns to a topic that last vexed its mind more than a year ago – the Large Hadron Collider.
Regular readers (and there are many, we know) will no doubt remember that in September 2008 the LHC, as its friends call it, blew the subatomic equivalent of a piston ring and was shut down for repairs, just a couple of days after it started its mission to probe the inner secrets of the Big Bang by shooting tiny particles round a 27km loop buried under the Swiss/French border.
Don’t ask how it does it. Don’t ask why. And don’t ask how much it costs. It just does, OK?
A couple of weeks ago the LHC, its gaskets newly fettled and its trunnions roundly swaged by a high-energy Man Who Can, was all ready to surge back into action and create an infinite flow of Higgs bosons, superstrings and Q mesons. But then a passing bird dropped a baguette down its cooling ducts, and the whole concern ground to a shuddering halt for a second time.
How preposterous does this sound, exactly?
Preposterous enough to make some apparently sane people start to believe that at some time in the future the LHC will develop its own transdimensional consciousness and attempt to manipulate its own past: to stop itself from working.
Why would it want to? Maybe to stop us hubristic humans from destroying ourselves – and indeed the whole universe – by poking our noses into things we don’t rightly understand.
Because if God had intended us to discover dark matter, he would never have given us powered flight
All of which brings us, in a rather round-about fashion, to Mrs D and her forthcoming solo jaunt to Warsaw.
Not, you understand, that one is in any way comparing one’s good wife to the Large Hadron Collider.
Especially not the “Large” bit.
But if her UK-based nearest and dearest are to stand any chance of survival during her absence, she is going to have to start manipulating us from the future.
The timeline will work something like this: Friday am, Mrs D heads for Heathrow, laden with prezzies for her relatives. Monday pm, she returns, laden with prezzies for us lot, only to find we have vanished into the domestic equivalent of a black hole.
Tuesday am, Mrs D sends back message to us lot on Saturday with full instructions for: loading washing machine; unloading same; reloading using washing powder and conditioner this time; mopping floor after inexplicable washing machine explosion; defluffing tumble dryer; cooking food; getting ready for school on Monday.
Back on Saturday morning, time passes through a tachyon non-conformity, twists round on itself and delivers the message from Mrs D.
Husband and kids get down to the household chores, black hole disappears up its own quantum singularity, bells ring, a flock of doves is released and Mrs D returns home on Monday to three happy Dixons, faces scrubbed and clothes clean, domestic tasks accomplished and never a cross word spoken.
So what will really happen? Will Mrs D send a message from the future to mend the past? Is the LHC deliberately trying to shut itself down? Only time will tell. But it might make a plot line for Paradox.