Opinion

How about ‘Mr. Twirly Beams’?

There is a theory which states that if anyone ever works out exactly what the Universe is for, and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarrely inexplicable. There is another theory which says that this has already happened. – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

If you’ve been following the news recently, then you know that people are talking about a staggering new development in the affairs of mankind that has intelligent people the world over in a state of near panic, many of them babbling incoherently about dark forces which have been unleashed and unspeakable powers that have been unchained, forces and powers that now threaten the very existence of our planet and may portend the end of life on earth as we know it.

I’m not just speaking here of the nomination of Sarah Palin as the Republican candidate for vice president of the United States. I’m also talking about the booting up of the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland last week.

In case you missed it, the Large Hadron Collider is the most extensive and expensive physics experiment in history, an attempt to recreate in a laboratory the state of the universe following the Big Bang, that cataclysmic explosion which created the universe and made possible such things as the sun, the moon, the stars and reality game shows. Basically, the Large Hadron Collider is a 17-mile-long enclosed circular race track in which physicists will be sending protons traveling at close to the speed of light in opposite directions inside a super-cooled tube until they run head-on into each other like drunk college kids driving really fast bumper cars through the Mercer Island tunnel.

When protons traveling this fast in opposite directions collide, no one is exactly sure what will occur. One possibility is that nothing at all will happen. This would be ever so disappointing to the thousands of scientists and the billions of dollars that went into designing and building the LHC. Another possibility is that the experiment will accurately recreate the exact situation that existed after the Big Bang, thereby allowing scientists to learn new and exciting details about space and time, including possibly proving the existence of the long-theorized, but as yet unseen, Higgs boson, a hypothetical atomic particle believed to give mass to all other particles and thus to be the stuff that makes up most of the universe.

A third possibility is that the resulting explosion will throw off a blinding shower of highly charged quarks and unpredictable gobs of dark matter, tear a hole from our world into another dimension, and unleash an unstoppable army of microscopic black holes, subatomic versions of collapsed stars whose gravity is so strong that they can suck planets and other stars into their inky and impenetrable depths like an evil magician sucking planetary ostrich eggs through an electromagnetic soda straw.

In the exciting glow of this breakthrough moment in the history of science, with mankind poised on the cusp of making a quantum leap in our collective knowledge about Life, the Universe and Everything, I know people everywhere are asking themselves the same question I’ve been asking myself for the past two weeks: What the hell kind of name is “Large Hadron Collider” for a scientific miracle machine of this magnitude? Could not the world’s leading physicist and nuclear scientists come up with something a little more catchy than “Large Hadron Collider?

The Royal Society of Chemistry in London, concluding that the name “Large Hador Collider” failed to reflect the drama of the device’s mission and failed to offer the inspiration it should be conveying to the wider public, held a contest to come up with a better name. The most popular suggestion was “Halo,” but people came up with many excellent suggestions such as the “Colliderscope,” the “Particrasher,” “The Big Banger,” “The Magical Roundabout,” the “Hawkinator” (after Steven Hawking), “Puff the Magic Hadron,” “Mr. Twirly Beams” and the “Doughnut of Discovery.”

Me? Until we see if we’re all going to get black holed, I think I’ll just call it “Hal.”

Islander Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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