Last week, Columbia University mathematician Peter Woit published a note on his blog that he said came to him by way of a commenter. The note is supposedly a leaked internal memo from a team at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, and it suggests that scientists there may have found the Higgs boson--a subatomic particle, sometimes called the "God Particle," that physicists have been trying to observe for years.
Woit was careful to note that the memo was probably "either a hoax, or something that will disappear on further analysis," but the rumor has ricocheted around the science world, and surfaced in general-audience publications like Wired and the Daily Mail. But on blogs run by physicists, the leaked memo is being scrutinized as closely as gossips follow a purported celebrity nude photo: you can find scientists and specialists debating the authenticity of the memo, speculating about the findings therein, and even throwing down cash money in wagers over whether or not the rumor will stand up to scrutiny.
Since we're not physicists, a lot of the technical commentary is opaque to us, though we can understand what James Gillies--a spokesman for CERN, which operates the Large Hadron Collider--told Wired: "It's way, way too early to say if there's anything in it or not ... The vast majority of these notes get knocked down before they ever see the light of day." Still, it's fun to see highly educated professionals going gaga over gossip like this--never has a phrase like "the Smart Set" seemed so appropriate.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.