Tempora mutantur - times are a-changing
This whimsical anecdote was published on my former blog on 12 July 2012
I have been interested in space, time and celestial matters since I was a very small boy – especially after the arrival in April 1950 of the very first edition of The Eagle comic which featured Dan Dare, the intrepid space traveller. When I was studying Music and Latin at Salford Grammar School at about the same time as I was being introduced to Dan Dare, I came across Haydn’s Symphony No 64 for the first time: it has the title “Tempora mutantur”. The Latin teacher told me that ‘tempora’ is a plural neuter noun meaning ‘times’ and ‘mutantor’ is a plural passive verb meaning ‘are changing’ but neither teacher could tell me why Haydn used that name for his symphony and there the matter seems to have rested.
In recent years I have been following stories about the search for the Higgs Boson. Would it be found? Well it appears that it has been found by the scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. In my humble opinion, and any scientist reading this will readily agree that I am no scientist, I think the world should now, metaphorically, tread very carefully. Whilst everyone in the scientific world is congratulating each other about this astonishing find, they seem to have overlooked a most important possibility. The Higgs Boson, or lots of them, is supposed to have been around at the time of the Big Bang. What if a boson actually caused the Big Bang that created our universe as we know it? How many of these particles were needed to start the Big Bang? Would one have been sufficient?
Suppose a single Higgs Boson, however that was created, set off the Big Bang. What is the possibility that the recent creation of a Higgs Boson in the LHC could have accidentally precipitated a new Big Bang? Yes, I know the scientists derided this possibility some years ago when the search began, but they would, wouldn’t they?
The Big Bang, the one we know about, is generally supposed to have been created in an infinitesimally small space of time so, if it happened again, there wouldn’t be time for us to realise it was about to happen because we would all disappear in a flash. There wouldn’t be a loud noise, or a flash in the sky - not one we that we mortals could experience. There would be no time to convene an international conference. There would be no pain and there would be no ashes or other detritus - but there would be a new universe! What would the new universe be like? Would it be an exact replica of the one that we are currently existing in, or would it be something quite different? Have we all been here before? Perhaps everything that ever was, is now, and forever will be, the fault of whoever designed the LHC in the first place?
Professor Peter Higgs could be a lot more important that we, or he, ever imagined!
I had better publish this piece now while I still have time, especially if times really are tempora mutantur.
Afterthought on 01 January 2018 (with apologies to the Astronomer Royal). In today ‘s Daily Telegraph there is a fascinating article by the Astronomer Royal, Lord Rees, entitled ‘Time has not solved the mystery of creation’. He concedes that “the past was a fog” but there is no mention of bosons or Haydn’s Symphony No 64.
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