Monday, April 05, 2010

Boson buddies

It is only by a stroke of very good fortune that this week's column has appeared on these august pages.

And anyone who had their ear to the ground last Tuesday will understand why.

Because it was on Tuesday that the Large Hadron Collider eventually got down to business and started its life's work: creating God particles.

What, you may well ask, is a God particle? What, you may equally well ask, is the Large Hadron Collider?

The best answer to both of those questions is probably "Don't ask." But for those with more curiosity than sense, here is a layperson's guide.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC to its chums, of which there are few) is a giant doughnut-shaped tunnel under the Swiss-French border that pings sub-atomic particles round and round in ever-decreasing circles in an attempt to create conditions similar to those that existed at the time of the Big Bang.

It has already broken down twice: first when it overheated and second when a bird flew over and dropped a baguette into it, bunging up its inner workings with crumbs.

And it cost 10 billion pounds, give or take a euro. Crumbs indeed.

The God particle (or Higgs boson to its chums, of which there are even fewer) is... Well, just don't go there, is all. Look it up on Wikipedia, or eBay, or something, but you'll only get confused.

Suffice it to say that it's a hypothetical massive scalar elementary particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model in particle physics.

It's called the God particle because if there is a god, then she made it first. Or something.

With us so far? Thought not.

There are mysteries which are too subtle for the mind of man, and the Higgs boson is most definitely one of them. Let's just note that it started working properly this week, and that the world hasn't vanished into a black hole of hubris. Yet.

Anyway, it is but a short hop (for a bunny) from God to chocolate eggs.

Mrs D forswore all forms of chocolate for Lent. Except for one Malteser, which didn't count. And for Dixon Junior's birthday cake, which was special.

The sighs of despair around Dixon Towers have had to be heard to be believed. Chocolate deprivation is no laughing matter, and we can only be grateful that her self-denial didn't extend to the occasional snifter.

Perhaps we should have modelled our Lenten preparations to the archdiocese of Milan, where apparently they start Lent six weeks before Easter and have a mini-Easter every Sunday.

Luckily it's nearly over, but we need to remember: shops traditionally run out of chocolate eggs, hens, bunnies and other symbols of regeneration early on Easter Saturday, and don't bother re-stocking. And to avoid more pain for wife, kids and columnist, it's best to buy them well in advance.

Or suffer the consequences.

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