In which celebrity culture comes to particle physics.
It’s been about six months since we had a big flurry of Higgs Boson stories, and as enjoyable as the relative quiet has been, it means we’re due for another run. And, predictably enough, the usual suspects are stoking speculation about what, exactly, will be officially revealed in a few weeks at the summer particle physics meetings. This spilled over into the rest of the social media universe, with the joke hashtag #HiggsRumors becoming a trending topic on Twitter for a little while last night.
As is also sadly predictable, the buzz has been accompanied by particle physicists huffily taking offense at the buzz, as you can see in the comments to the blog posts linked above, or in these Twitter exchanges, with one person declaring that while Twitter rumors are all well and good for sports teams, they’re bad for physics, and another saying that it’s unethical to spread this buzz.
My reaction to this is, basically, “Dude, this means you’ve won.”
I mean, it’s not an accident that there’s a lot of excitement about the maybe-sorta-kinda discovery of the Higgs. This is the product of years of relentless hype from the particle physics community. They’ve been talking about this goddamn particle for longer than I’ve been running this blog, and it’s finally percolated out into the general public consciousness enough that buzz about it can trend on Twitter. Complaining that your persistent effort to get people to care about particle physics esoterica has led to people being excited about particle physics esoterica seems more than a little churlish.
So, lighten up. Revel in the success of your hype machine. God knows, if there were a Twitter trending topic about Bose-Einstein Condensation or anything else in atomic physics, I’d do the Happy Dance all the way down the hall. You’ve worked hard to make your elusive particle a celebrity, now reap the rewards.
If you really can’t stand the buzz you’ve created then, I don’t know, check into the Betty Ford clinic, or lay low at L’Hermitage, or whatever it is that celebrities do to escape the spotlight. Or, better yet, hunker down in the lab and nail this discovery down so we don’t have to go through this dingbat kabuki routine every six months.