In response to my post, “Buckling under the weight of an award”, David Brydges wrote, “Someone must have planted a Higgs Boson in your award! After all, particle physicists believe that it is the origin of mass.”
I looked it up and surely enough, the Higgs boson is the only Standard Model particle that has not been observed. The best guess of physicists is that it weighs somewhere between 114 and 600 giga-electronvolts.
And by the way, scientists are preparing –as we speak– to run the world’s largest particle accelerator –the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located at CERN, near Geneva– for an extra year in a bid to find the Higgs particle.
Working towards getting this extension approved, Sergio Bertolucci, CERN’s director for research and computing, did not mince his words: “If we stop the machine with 3,000 people apiece in the experiments waiting for data, there is no way we could get home at night without having slashed tires on our cars.”
Who says that scientists are bad at communicating? In any case, too bad for the physicists. Mathematicians have already found the Higgs boson on Vancouver’s Denman street!
My post turned out to be more interdisciplinary than I expected. My friend Keith Taylor wrote me the story behind the sculpture by Helaman Ferguson. Its design was actually inspired by the summation used to compute the Madelung constant for NaCl. The chemist, Osvald Knop (and not John Hepburn), was mathematical enough to realize there was a real problem in the chemistry literature because the order of summation would matter in the definition of the Madelung’s constant. This led him to fruitful collaborations with at least two Borweins (hence the choice of the sculpture), as well as with Kenichi Fukui (Nobel Prize 1981). He promised to tell me more about it later.
As to Jacques Hurtubise, he wrote: “But I thought they were applauding my French!”
It can’t get more interdisciplinary than this, folks!