We’ve Figured Out the Universe—and It’s Boring

Ideas of the Year 2013
More
Javier Jaén Benavides

Last year, when physicists at the Large Hadron Collider announced the discovery of a particle suspected to be the elusive Higgs boson, the general mood seemed to be: Pop the champagne! We’ve got ourselves a Higgs!

But not everyone was cheering. “At some level I’m actually a little disappointed,” the scientist and author Stephen Wolfram wrote on his blog. Stephen Hawking agreed. He told the BBC that finding the particle was “a pity in a way,” noting that “the great advances in physics have come from experiments that gave results we didn’t expect.” The Higgs boson? Exactly what the so-called Standard Model of particle physics predicted. Peter Woit, a mathematical physicist at Columbia University, was also underwhelmed, telling the PBS show Nova, “I always felt the best possible thing for the LHC would be to not see the Higgs.”

Physics still has its mysteries—the strange “dark matter” that holds galaxies together, the shadowy “dark energy” that is pushing the universe apart—but this discovery has eliminated one more of them.

Pity the scientists of the future: Who knows what will be left to baffle them?

Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In