Tuesday, 13 December 2011

They seek it here, they seek it there!

Is the Higgs Boson finally going to be revealed today? I hope so, because without it, modern physics doesn't work. If you don't know what it is, try this page, which uses cartoons and a very simple explanation specifically designed to make it comprehensible to a forgotten Tory Science minister, William Waldegrave (apparently pronounced War Grave).*

But the Higgs Boson is so redolent of other cultures. Boson, of course, reminds me of Bosie, Oscar Wilde's lover and eventual nemesis, more formally known as Lord Alfred Douglas. There are also at least two lost or forgotten Higgs other than the God Particle. Where, for example, is John Higgs, Jack Woolley's sinister chauffeur and handyman at Grey Gables?  He's disappeared so completely that even the Archers website fails to mention him. Up to no good, I'll be bound.

The other Higgs I'd like to mention is the narrator of Samuel Butler's Erewhon, his Victorian Utopian satire which I urge you to read, alongside William Morris's News From Nowhere. There may be an Archers connection too: the Erewhonians' Goddess is Ydgrun the Incomprehensible - an anagram of Grundy, the similarly incomprehensible Archers peasant family.

One of the very interesting features of the novel is Butler's speculation that machines might evolve consciousness: derided at the time as a weak joke, he insisted that it was a Darwinian possibility (so far unfulfilled: Siri might be able to tell me what a Higgs Boson is, but it's no Marvin). Banks don't come out of Butler's novel looking particularly good either. Higgs himself gets caught up in a romantic entanglement with a native girl…

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