Playing Casino War with the universe

With all of the problems the Large Hadron Collider has had, a pair of physicists are mulling the possibility that nature itself is conspiring against it. It’s possible, they say, that the potential creation of a Higgs boson particle is so abhorrent that “ripples through time” are preventing the machine from operating as it’s supposed to. The test, they suggest, might be a game of chance. From the NY Times:

Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Ninomiya have proposed a kind of test: that CERN engage in a game of chance, a “card-drawing” exercise using perhaps a random-number generator, in order to discern bad luck from the future. If the outcome was sufficiently unlikely, say drawing the one spade in a deck with 100 million hearts, the machine would either not run at all, or only at low energies unlikely to find the Higgs.Sure, it’s crazy, and CERN should not and is not about to mortgage its investment to a coin toss. The theory was greeted on some blogs with comparisons to Harry Potter. But craziness has a fine history in a physics that talks routinely about cats being dead and alive at the same time and about anti-gravity puffing out the universe.

As Niels Bohr, Dr. Nielsen’s late countryman and one of the founders of quantum theory, once told a colleague: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

via Essay – The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate –

This doesn’t have anything at all to do with casinos, but it does remind us of the integral role that chance plays in the universe. What Neilsen and Ninomiya have proposed is the intellectual equivalent of getting several bad beats, then wondering if the game is rigged. Using a game of chance to test this theory sounds absurd, but at the quantum level our ideas of “common sense” are anything but.

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