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The God Particle

08 July 2013, 08:51

Professor Dougal McNutshell, a scientist working on the Medium-Sized Hadron Collider in Scotland, was a splendid sight in his white coat and kilt, the wind whipping his beard about his face with a ferocity only found in the Highlands of Scotland. Facing him, mike in hand, was Scott Norton-Drummond III, of American Scientist. He was here to interview him and his partner Dr Rabijansan MacMurtry, originally from the University of Calcutta, but now seconded to St. Andrews University to work on the Medium-Sized Hadron Collider.

‘Professor McNutshell, our readers would be most interested to know why you’ve decide to build the Medium-Sized Hadron Collider here in the Highlands of Scotland.’

‘Och weell, it’s all a matter o’ space, ye ken? We built it here in the Heeghlands because it’s no’ too dissimilar from Switzerland, wi’ the moontains an’ all.’

‘Was that your sole reason for building it here?’

Dr MacMurty stepped forward. ‘No no no no! Not at all. Because there was already a badger den in place here on the hillside, we did not have to excavate as much as the Swiss did, so it saved us a lot of money.’

‘A badger den?!’

‘Aye, laddie, a badger den! Have ye seen hoo deep those dens are? Some o’ them can go as deep as half a mile, so it saved us money on the excavations, as Dr MacMurtrey said. We only had tae dig oot anither five miles oorselves.’

Scott Norton-Drummond III looked from one to the other in amazement tinged with amusement. ‘You do realise, don’t you, that the Large Hadron Collider has nineteen kilometres more tunnel than you do?’

‘Of course, laddie, tha’s why we called this the Medium-sized Hadron Collider. But size is no’ all, it’s a heell of a lot moore than tha’!’ He walked over to an array of magnets, huge industrial horseshoe magnets, sunk down into the mud and barely visible. ‘What we’ve done here, laddie, is tae put these magnets pole tae pole and run a hydrogen atom around inside the tunnel. With the magnets pole tae pole, the wee atom disnae know which way tae go, so it goes roond and roond in the tunnel. Next week we’re goin’ tae be replacing these magnets wi’ electromagnets and the power and speed will increase dramatically!’

‘What is the current speed of the atom inside the tunnel?’

Professor McNutshell looked at Dr MacMurtry quizzically. ‘What d’ye think, Raj?’

‘We estimate it to be about ninety miles an hour at the moment, but once we get the electromagnets, we’ll be up to near-light speed in about two years.’

‘And what is it you’ll be looking for? At the Large Hadron Collider they’ve already observed the Higgs-Boson, or God particle. What do you hope to achieve?’

Professor McNutshell walked over to a mound and beckoned the reporter to follow him. ‘Ye see, they’ve got all these ideas aboot the Higgs-Boson an’ the God particle, but they’ve nivver seen ‘em, have they?’

‘They’re sub-atomic,’ said Norton-Drummond III. ‘They’re invisible, even to an electron microscope.’

‘Aha!’ exclaimed Professor McNutshell. ‘So they’re really only guessin’, then.’

‘No, not at all. They have the data to prove everything they’ve achieved so far.’

‘Pchah! Facts an’ figures, laddie, facts an’ figures. We’re goin’ tae show the world what actually happens when the atoms collide.’

Norton-Drummond II was puzzled. ‘But how?’

‘By usin’ an electron microsocope.’ He stopped and pointed at the mound where he was standing. ‘Inside this moond is an electron microsope, an’ we’re goin’ tae be able tae see th’ atom splittin’ an’ the wee eletrons flyin’ off.’

‘But that’s impossible!’

‘Nae lad, nothin’s impossible if ye have the right equipment.’ He pointed to the mound. ‘Have a look here: electron microscope.’

‘But you can barely see atoms with an electron microscope! How could you possibly see subatomic particles?’

Professor McNutshell held up his finger like a schoolteacher. ‘Aha! That’s where we’ve got the drop on everyone else! Raj, come and show the wee laddie what we’ve come up with.’

Dr MacMurtry held up a strange looking device. ‘This is a magnifying glass which will be fitted to the eyepiece of the electron microscope. This will magnify the image we receive, and we attach this lens to a high-speed camera, so we can film it happening.’

Norton-Drummond III was nearly spluttering with indignation. These two had to be pulling his leg! ‘What you are proposing is impossible: it’s never been done!’

‘Nae laddie, because it’s nivver been done b’foore disnae mean it’s impossible; it just means it’s nivver been done before.’ He gestured. ‘Come over here.’

Norton-Drummond III walked over to a pipe sticking up out of the ground. ‘And what’s this?’

‘This, laddie is where we drop th’ other wee hydrogen atom once th’ other one gets up tae near-light speed. Then we film them when they crash intae each other. Oh it’ll be a bonnie wee day, that will.’ He took the reporter’s shoulder and led him away to a hillock overlooking the entire assembly.

‘People tend tae forget hoo inventive the Scots are, because somebody else is a’ways stealin’ oor thunder. John Logie Baird invented the television, but he’s hardly recognized. John MacAdam made the proper pavin o’ roads a reality, but people forget that. That coat ye’re wearin was invented by George MacKintosh. I could go on and on, but I’m no’ here tae bore you, laddie. I’m here to show ye some more Scottish ingenuity!’

‘And when you've filmed this atom splitting, what are you going to do then?’

‘Why, get drunk o’ course! Then, when we’ve sobered up, we’ll show it tae the world, an’ call it the Raj-Dougal particle.’

‘But the Higgs-Boson has already been observed and named!’

‘Aye laddie, but it hasnae been seen, an’ we’re no’ sayin’ it’s the same wee particle we’re lookin’ at. Oors could be the divvel particle an’ blow us all tae smithereens!’ He and Dr MacMurtry laughed heartily at this joke, obviously a favourite of theirs. ‘Nae, lad, it’s perfectly safe. But come back in two years an’ ye’ll see a different story here. In fact, if ye’re in time, we’ll let you be the one tae observe it!’

He looked up at them in amazed excitement, all scepticism gone. ‘Really?’

‘Aye laddie, really. Noo, ye’d better be on yoor way, so we can get back tae work.’ He thanked them and left, the wind buffeting him as he walked back to his car.

‘So, Dougal,’ said Dr MacMurty. ‘Do you think it worked?’

‘Aye laddie, it worked alright. He’ll go back tae America and some crazy investor is goin’ tae want tae invest money tae earn recognition, an’ then we’ll be gone.’

Dr MacMurtry sighed. ‘I really love science, you know, but I think we better get out of this wind and have ourselves a bowl of curry!’

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