Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Location: New Zealand

Marni D. Sheppeard

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fairy Interlude

Higgs is the traveller and narrator in the adventures of Erewhon. He arrives in this mythical land, as often in such stories, by crossing a mountainous region, which in its description is, not coincidentally, very much like a beautiful region of New Zealand.

One of Butler's main reasons for creating the character of Higgs was his interest in Darwin's Origin of the Species, first published in the same year that Butler moved to New Zealand. Higgs discovers that the Erewhonians have banished machines, on the basis that the eventual evolution of humans into superior machines seemed inevitable, following the profoundly convincing arguments of earlier Erewhonian philosophers. Far from being critical of Darwin's work, as some believed he was with this satire, Butler admired it greatly. His satire is directed more at a society that would shun the consequences of evolution, rather than embrace them, no matter how frightening they may appear. And the frightening idea was not that you are descended from a monkey, but rather that your demise is inevitable.


Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Your citing of literature is appreciated. Perhaps he foretold that the Higgs boson would be found nowhere!

July 14, 2009 10:26 AM  
Blogger nige said...

In his lecture "Godel and the End of Physics" Hawking said:

"The real reason we are seeking a complete theory, is that we want to understand the universe, and feel we are not just the victims of dark and mysterious forces. ...

"The standard model is clearly unsatisfactory in this respect. first of all, it is ugly and ad hoc.

"The particles are grouped in an apparently arbitrary way, and the standard model depends on 24 numbers, whose values can not be deduced from first principles, but which have to be chosen to fit the observations. What understanding is there in that? ...

"The second failing of the standard model, is that it does not include gravity."


Woit mentions in his book that (Woit's undergraduate tutor) Glashow refers to the Higgs mechanism "Weinberg's toilet", because it is both repugnant and necessary in the non-gravity mainstream Standard Model, breaking electroweak symmetry at low energy.

July 14, 2009 8:23 PM  

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