This week in metaphors: Higgs-o-Rama

In case you missed it

July 13, 2012

Here’s how I feel about the Higgs Boson: I could rattle off a basically acceptable textbook definition of what this thing is, because I’ve heard the definition so many times, especially recently. But do I actually understand it? Do I even know what I’m talking about?


The powers-that-be, or that purport to actually understand it, are now faced with explaining it to me — that’s where metaphors come in. Ah, metaphors, my old friends from SAT prep. Some are weird and wacky, some borderline helpful. Here are a few good ones, in case you missed them.

Cara Santa Maria at the Huffington Post did a nice short explainer video that operates solely in metaphors, staying away from theoretical physics entirely. In this video, “scientist” is to “bomb squad investigator” as “Higgs Boson” is to “trigger wire.”

Choice excerpts:

“No one could have hypothesized a giraffe.”

“What if it’s filled with liquid candy?”


Sandrine Ceurstemont’s videos at New Scientist TV do actually include scientific language, but I can pretty much follow this one as it tries to explain where physics will go after the HB discovery.

Actually I focused on why George W. Bush’s head was included in this animation — another unanswered question in our Universe.


And in case you were wondering — yes, legendary movie reviewer and absolute non-scientist Roger Ebert did have some Higgs musings in his journal at the Chicago Sun-Times. Thanks for asking.

It’s really more about God than the God-particle, but it includes a concise layperson’s explanation of dark matter.

He quotes Lawrence Krauss’s “swimming in molasses” metaphor from the New York Times as well as noting his own personal feelings about science, cosmology, and the supernatural. But the quotable moment award goes to commenter Jared Busby:


If there is no God, it IS turtles all the way down.


About the Author

Kathryn Doyle

Kathryn Doyle recently graduated from the College of the Holy Cross, having majored in biology and English. Undergraduate studies led her to a small field research station in Mexico for a few months in pursuit of whales and to a summer at Universita Ca’Foscari in Venice, Italy, in the more relaxing pursuit of travel writing. She is happy to let life take her back to New York, her home state, and to SHERP. @doyleschmoyle


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