Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Higgs Boson and what really needs finding

Let me apologize in advance for interrupting your musings over important matters—you know, things like why J.Lo and Steven Tyler have left American Idol and what their exit means for the future of mankind. But the scientific community recently celebrated an important breakthrough. Sure, the Higgs Boson can’t compete with even the watered-down, post-Simonic remnant of that show. But what its discovery represents is hope for us all.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, let me tell you what the Higgs Boson is. I don’t know. And I’m in good company. Journalists are already champions at writing their stories before doing their research. Who has time for facts? In the case of the Higgs Boson, though, they had to make the effort to do more than sound smart. Still, the resulting attempts at the subject had poor Peter Higgs, the Boson’s namesake, rolling in his grave. Which was a pretty mean feat considering that Higgs is still alive.

So being a true journalist, I’m going to break from tradition and look out for you instead of my editor. In other words, forget about what the Higgs Boson is. That it’s the smallest particle now known to man, what gives everything on earth its mass, doesn’t matter to you. Or to me. Let’s instead do a search for…all those socks.

Yes, you heard me right, socks. It shouldn’t take a $10-billion particle accelerator to find what seemingly travels to another dimension—or perhaps, since the voyage of these garments begins in a washing machine, to a planet orbiting the luminous Energy Star. Yet you can’t sort laundry after a wash without noticing at least one sock is gone.

In our house, socks are only the warm-up act. True, the TV’s remote hasn’t dissolved into particles since the kids hit middle school. And it’s hardly high technology to phone a misplaced cell phone to listen for its ring, except that before losing my phone I pride myself in turning it off. But Elena’s glasses? Our keys? My credit-card bills, which sit plainly in view for weeks till it comes time for me to pay them?

The scientists found the Higgs Boson using a machine called the Large Hadron Collider, which sounds like a shopping cart that strikes fear in the heart of anyone who parks his shiny new car, a Porsche Hadron, outside the supermarket. If it takes one of these to find all the things that get lost in this house, I want one for Christmas. It shouldn’t cost much now that it’s used. And because physicists are finished using it to find the Higgs Boson, it’s just going to sit around, right?

What most needs finding around here, though, is the result of a certifiable good deed. A friend of son Andrew was, for a time, selling Cutco Cutlery. Sure, they’re fine products, but they’re very expensive. And when you’ve been married for 25-plus years without throwing knives at one another even once, you still have the ones you got a quarter-century ago. So we ordered a few things, including a pair of pruners.

They’re great pruners. The 18-year-old sales rep said they’ll last for years. They will, too. Wouldn’t you agree, since they’re wrapped up carefully in the box they came in? Sure, I know exactly where they are—in that little box. Just don’t ask me where that box is.

The Higgs Boson might tell us how keys, glasses, bills and even those pruners have mass. But someday, I’ll discover where all these things are. When I do, I will be lauded the world over. I can already envision, in fact, the day I go to Oslo to accept my Nobel Prize. My name will be called, and I will stride up the aisle to thunderous applause.

The ordinarily reserved crowd in the seats will be all abuzz. So much so that after I receive my award and all those cameras and phones start clicking away, the award’s presenter will announce that, however unusual, he’d like to ask me a question before I step any farther from the stage.

“Would you kindly tell us why you have a sock stuck to your back?”