Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Higgs boson and the triumph of science

I don't pretend to understand the physics behind the experiments carried out at the CERN nuclear research centre in Switzerland but I'm still excited by today's announcement that scientists there think they may have seen a Higgs boson, the so-called God particle that is thought to give other matter its mass (I think!).  What is just as interesting is that before the announcement the physicists at CERN said that if the Higgs boson could be shown not to exist they would have to rewrite the laws of particle physics from scratch.  This is still possible given the provisional nature of the results and mirrors the situation with the last publicly discussed results from CERN which seemingly showed particles travelling at more than the speed of light, contravening the theory of general relativity put forward by Einstein.

Science's willingness to treat evidence as provisional rather than immutable and completely rewrite its theories when new evidence becomes known is of course what makes it science - in contrast to the pseudoscience perpetrated by whacky Midwestern creationists - but those qualities should nevertheless still be celebrated by all rational people.

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