Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Higgs Boson Makes Its Way Through Congress

“The particle is named for the University of Edinburgh scientist Peter Higgs, who was one of six physicists who suggested that a sort of cosmic molasses pervading space is what gives particles their heft,” Times science reporting guru Dennis Overbye remarked in a recent piece about the Higgs Boson (“New Data on Elusive Particle is Shrouded in Secrecy,” NYT, 6/19/12). “Particles trying to wade through it gather mass the way a bill moving through Congress gains riders and amendments, becoming more and more ponderous.” Overbye’s remarks about "the Higgs mechanism, a pervasive field that gives mass to elementary particles" (and he also compared to the difference between paparazzi making their way through ordinary people or celebrities whose “fame” creates an “inertia,”) turns out to be particularly instructive due to what they say about congressional politics. Everyone knows that there are stipulations in congressional bills which either exempt certain institutions like banks, hospitals or stock exchanges from compliance with a regulation, or provide perks for certain constituencies. “If we are building a road, it better not be a road to nowhere,” President Obama famously remarked in a speech following his election. But let’s hope that Overbye’s figure of speech is also characterized by hyperbole. If it turns out that the Higgs Boson does exist and that it’s one of the major building blocks of life as we know it, then if it’s anything comparable to a congressional bill, it’s going be contaminated—as contaminated as pork barrel politics itself. If you think that life is complicated and human motives never pure, it may go back to the original boson which was burdened with appeals to special interests and lobbyists from the moment the big bang hearkened the creation of the universe. Can you imagine a particle comparable to the repeal of Glass-Steagall?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.