Was Deep Thought Wrong?

I was watching the live feed from the conference which announced the Higgs Boson had been probably detected (as far as I understand what went on) and also tracking the tweets from somebody I knew in the audience. My theoretical physics days are well behind me; as an undergraduate I celebrated the confirmation of the W-particle with a beer (I think it was the W, whatever that is!), now I followed the unfolding events merely to remind myself of days gone by.

The event itself was drawn out, instead of coming out with the punch-line we had lots of maths, pictures from CERN, photos of scientists (I assume that’s what they were), computer pictures and so forth. As far as I understood the idea was to see an appropriate decay (possible event containing a Higgs boson) with an appropriate mass-energy (i.e. that of the theoretical Higgs boson). We had lots of well presented material that took its time. I think what slowly happened was that two different reactions were measured each of which had certain levels of tolerance. The tolerances were expressed in terms of standard deviations (sigma) and could be combined to improve the value of sigma for the experiment. The bigger sigma the more likely it was that the measurements were meaningful (I found this which helps).

The audience were building to the leaked answer, the statistics was done and the answer announced:


At this point 100os of dedicated scientists exploded in joyful clapping; me I just thought WTF does that mean and only later twigged that this was ‘it probably exists’.

I was struck though by memories of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. There a fortune was spent on Deep Thought which churned away for aeons to come up with the answer 42. Apart from the amusing image, I wondered what Douglas Adams would have made of the answer to this period’s great question on the universe being a measly 5.

With that thought I leave you and thank you for your time.



About Tony Jones
Big Finish writer, reviewer and blogger, I'm interested in science fiction and Doctor Who. I review for CultBox, The Doctor Who Companion and others. I am also Lead Writer for Starburst Magazine, and write the occasional piece for Vortex, the BSFA critical magazine.

One Response to Was Deep Thought Wrong?

  1. Pingback: 34969 – Tomorrow People – Listening – « Reality Checkpoint

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