Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Day 5: Laboring

Today The New York Times' Science Section was completely dedicated to the laborious journey a group of 6,000 scientists embarked on look for the Higgs boson.

And so begins the extended metaphor about my day.

Two teams, Atlas and CMS, are both in a friendly competition to see who can first find evidence for this god particle from running experiments at the Large Hadron Collider. But the stakes are deadly serious, even higher than Nobel Peace prizes, fame, recognition, and bragging rights. Evidence of this particle would explain why some particles have mass and why others do not. These two teams are to challenge and complement each other, so there is always an opposing side to improve against, always someone to look up to, always a different viewpoint to consider, and always more motivation to keep going.

For years, the scientists were balancing on a tightrope, trying not to overlook any small bump on the readings and forever be known as the team that accidentally skipped over the particle, while on the other hand trying to not jump the gun and announce a false alarm. After decades of laboring, poring over calculations, a particle with a 5 sigma signal was calculated, a threshold that left only a one in 3.5 million chance that the same signal would happen in an universe without the Higgs boson.

The scientists' collaboration, competition, and commitment during this journey paid off.

But will mine do the same? I hope so.


  1. I am an avid science fan and really enjoyed your post. It is a wonderful example of positive collaborative competition. That seems to be in short supply worldwide.

  2. Your post is very thoughtful. I especially like how you ended with the last 3 lines. The the connection between their combined efforts and your ability to do the same is powerful.

  3. Today's Science Times was awesome. So glad you read it!