Short Story: An Idiot’s Guide to Particle Physics.

Did you know there’s 96% of the universe you can’t even see?”
Since he had discovered the joys of the world wide web Margaret had got used to her husband coming out with all kinds of stuff. Usually she already knew it. It was getting harder and harder to persuade him to help her sort things out in the real world, the 4% that you could see, never mind the rest.
You can’t even see what’s in front of your own nose end.”
Henry ignored his wife. It was usually best. She would go away eventually.

Dark matter they call it. It says here. In this article about that collider thing.”
Margaret had heard about that on the breakfast news.
What is it then? That seems like an awful lot. How can they tell if they can’t see it?”
“Buggered if I know.”
“Not much of an article then is it? Doesn’t tell you much.”

She leaned over and looked at the computer screen. There was a very interesting picture with a lot of swirling coloured lines but it didn’t seem to mean very much. She did see the word mass and that was something that she was intererested in.
So these Higgs Boson particles are what makes you heavy then?”
Something like that. I’m not sure.”
Put in Higgs Boson diet into google.”
Henry stared.
What? Don’t be so daft.”
Just do it.”
He did, and the results flashed up. There it was on the first page of google. ‘Amazon.com. Higgs Bosons Diets & Weight Loss Books’.
You can order that for me.”
It won’t work.”
Course it will. It’s science isn’t it? Has to work.”
It’ll take more than a bloody collider to shift your extra mass.”
Margaret gave him a poke in the back.
Watch yourself.”
Anyway, there’s a flaw in this somewhere isn’t there? I mean if these particle things are what makes you heavy how are you going to know when you’ve lost some? They need to be shot out of a whacking great machine before you can even see them. It’s not like going to weightwatchers on Thursday nights.”
Margaret thought about this.
Maybe in the future all folks who want to lose weight will have to do is go into one of them colliders and they’ll be able to have all the heavy bits shot out of them just like lightening.”
Sometimes Henry really did worry about his wife. He pointed at the screen.
It says here it cost six billion pounds Margaret. Took them ten years to build. There’s not going to be one on every high street in our lifetime.”
Well no, I can see that.”
Margaret frowned. Things did change fast. Too fast sometimes. She had lived long enough to know that, and things were always more expensive to start with. Microwaves cost next to nothing these days.
Stranger things have happened. Not so long ago people couldn’t even fly.”
Henry stuck his tongue out at her.
They still can’t.”
Stop trying to be clever Henry. You know what I mean.”
What use is it then, knowing all this stuff?”
Henry wasn’t sure. It had to be some use, otherwise why was it in all the newspapers and all over the radio? You could see it must be important. Mind you there was a lot in the news these days that didn’t seem important to him at all. Celebrities having their hair cut and that. Maybe this would be just another bee the news editors had got in their bonnet. You heard all sorts of things and then they never got mentioned again. Like how dangerous clingfilm was. Millions of folks were still using that. Never got mentioned any more.
Well it must be some use.”
What though?”
There was a long silence. Henry wasn’t going to let this beat him.
Well they’ve found out something they didn’t know haven’t they.”
Bully for them.”
This bloke said it was there and now it looks like it is.”
“Fancy.”
“Yes, but what difference is it going to make?”

Well it says you’ll be able to see all this dark stuff now, eventually, with this higgs boson thing.”
All 97% of it?”
I presume so.”
Margaret was impressed.
Bloody hell. That’s a lot of extra universe. Will we all be able to see it?”
I doubt it.”
Why not?”
“Well it’s always the same isn’t it? There’s a lot that folks like us never get to know.”

Margaret turned away from the computer and started to think about cooking tea. He’d soon be complaining if there was 96% of that he couldn’t see. It was all very well people going on about particles you couldn’t see that would eventually let you see more stuff that you couldn’t see, but somebody had to keep everything going or they’d all starve to death while they were looking. You didn’t win nobel prizes for that but it needed doing all the same.
There you are then. Not a fat lot of use. Just as I said. There’s some of that beef left.”

 

 

 

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