Twinkies and cement trucks give life to God particle
Understanding how the universe works has been an obsession since the dawn of civilization when we started smashing coconuts in the savannahs of Africa while hyenas were laughing mockingly, waiting for our ancestors to pass out from exhaustion.
Look who is laughing now! Physicists Higgs and Englert received a Noble Prize in Physics for their work on the God Particle, the Higgs Boson, after 50 years of hard work. Higgs and his colleagues guessed the existence of the God Particle, which others confirmed by using $ 2 billion-plus particle accelerators, tons of time, and a million gallons of coffee.
Physicists suspected that the God particle is the thing that binds matter together. Now we know for sure that there is glue that holds matter together. We know because scientists have been able to smash things so well that there was nothing left but atomic glue and powder.
Imagine that the Twinkie is the smallest piece of measurable matter in the universe. The fundamental question is ‘How is the Twinkie holding together?’ The alternate question is what the heck happens if you smash it like a coconut? A wilder question yet: If there is no glue, is the universe made solely of flour and cream filling, spinning at the speed of light?
But in our example the Twinkie is too small to see under the most powerful of microscopes, so we need a special hammer and an even more special way to look at its splatter. Or worst yet, maybe a smashed Twinkie becomes nothing like Bre-X stocks: a complete and utter obliteration with no physical trace except perhaps fathom pain in your portfolio.
Higgs and his colleagues figured out how to study the splatter of the smallest piece of matter in the universe. If we used their approach to smash Twinkies we would need a raceway and a flurry of speeding cement trucks.
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Imagine the entire editorial board of InvestorIntel in lab coats at the Indianapolis 500 Speedway with a 132 cement trucks, and 50,000 gallons of coffee. Our goal is to figure out the components of Twinkies by looking at how they splatter on the front license plates of cement trucks.
First we arrange the cement trucks in a continuous loop around the speedway with barely six inches of bumper space between them. To do a good smashing job we instruct all drivers to speed up to a hundred miles an hour.
To throw Twinkies into the path of the racing trucks we borrow an automated ball thrower from a batting cage, which we program to toss Twinkies continuously at the cement trucks. As we watch and drink coffee, most of the Twinkies hit the sides of the cement trucks but from time to time a lucky Twinkie squeezes in between two trucks and smashes on a license plate. This is the splatter we want to see.
At the end of the month we stop the trucks and collect all the license plates with the Twinkie splatters. But then we realize that there is no trace of Twinkies. Maybe the Twinkies vaporized because they’re made of nothing or maybe we waited too long to look at them after they hit the license plates. So, we start again but this time we give instructions to the drivers to stop as soon as they hit a Twinkie on the licence plate.
After various profanities and gear grinding all the cement trucks stop and the entire editorial board of Investor Intel rushes to assess the Twinkie splatter one at a time. We take pictures and congratulate each other that we might have smashed the smallest coconut in the universe.
But we’re not sure yet. Maybe the splatter was from a bird or a bumblebee that crossed the speedway. So we do this day after day, one lucky Twinkie at a time until we are fairly certain that the splatter is consistent. Eventually we say say: ‘Hey, we figured out that when we hit Twinkies with a speeding cement truck it makes a consistent splatter rather than evaporate into nothingness.’
Metaphor aside, it is a feat of science to invent technology to prove a hypothesis as complex as this one. But it might be a long time before the God particle becomes an action figure.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>