Little bundles of photons

They probably sound cuter than they are. I remember photons from school. In fact, I remembered a lot from school, during the talk by Frank Close and Peter Higgs. Things I never understood too well then, and time has not improved me. But it was interesting, and I’m glad I went.

Peter Higgs

It’s not every day you are in the same tent as a world famous name of importance. We came for Frank Close, and then we got Peter Higgs and his newly found Boson as well. It’s not every day the director of the book festival introduces an event. (A first for me.) That proves how big this event was. Nick Barley told us about the developments over the summer, when on July 4th an interesting talk suddenly became hot news and even more exciting.

It’s also rare with applause lasting quite so long, especially at the beginning of an event. It’s probably also not every day you sell out a huge tent for a talk on Particle Physics. But there we were.

Frank Close is an excellent speaker, more than capable of bringing science to the masses. And mass to erm, well, yes. I now know that a ‘discovery can only happen once.’ I know vaguely about electromagnetic force, and weak force. There was something about getting rid of infinity.

Frank Close

I got the impression that the discovery of Higgs Boson had something to do with travel insurance. Peter Higgs was in Sicily, when he was told in no uncertain terms to pop to Switzerland for the 4th of July, or he would regret it. That was his reply to Frank’s Olympic style question ‘can you tell me how it felt?’ (I can’t be sure, but I think Frank insulted Scottish soccer in the process.)

By now Peter is getting used to signing autographs, and his email is this high. (About two feet off the floor.)

Unsurprisingly, the questions from the audience were complicated. People were suspicious. Someone wondered how we can trust Particle Physicists when they say whatever it is they say. Higgs Boson won’t solve our economic problems, but that’s hardly something we expected.

There was talk of what I put in cheese cake, but they seemed to feel Quark is to do with Physics. Top Quark. Bottom Quark. The guide dog across the tent slumped on the floor. Maybe he’s not into this LHC stuff.

Anyway, a 48-year-old equation has reached its goal, and Peter Higgs is glad he’s here to enjoy it. But as for the next such thing, ‘we don’t know yet.’

Director Barley bowed to his guests and told the audience that he had read Frank Close’s book The Infinity Puzzle, and it was an easy read, and why didn’t we go across to the bookshop and buy it? Especially since Peter Higgs had agreed to sign it as well.

So we did. But only after more lengthy applauding.

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