last week i became engrossed in watching a documentary about the search for the elusive higgs boson by way of the multi-billion pound large hadron collider. though i had little comprehension of the physics i studied at school, by some strange quirk of fate, i managed to achieve a rather fine grade for my higher, and have maintained a distant, quizzical interest ever since. until settling down of an evening to watch this scientific wild goose chase with a happy ending, i had been only able to confuse the higgs boson with edvald boasson haagen.
assuming i've understood everything correctly (and there's a greater than evens chance that i haven't) it transpires that there are two differing theories as to the constructs of the universe: super-symmetry and multiverse. the former construct theorises that each sub atomic particle, such as quarks, gluons and the like are equally matched by anti-particles, the very thing we learned from scotty in star trek. however, this theory had one failing; a bit like the lord of the rings, it needed one particle to rule the rest, one proposed by by peter higgs and thus known as the higgs particle, higgs boson or even the god particle. unless this mythical item was discovered, the super-symmetry (or standard model) theory was just so much hocus pocus.
the building of the large hadron collider at cern was, at least in part, a very expensive means of discovering whether the higgs boson was fact or fiction. this is achieved by spinning protons in opposite directions around an enormous donut shaped tunnel, accelerating them to slighly below the speed of light, before smashing them into each other. these crashes are photographed by a surprisingly large number of hi-res digital cameras, then examined to check if any of the minute traces could be identified as the boson.
now, i'm rather unsure of my ground on this next part, but apparently the world's particle physicists betting on super-symmetry expected (hoped) that the higgs boson would appear with a value of 104 gigaelectronvolts (gev). if its discovery was closer to 160 gev, then the multi-verse would seem to be the more conclusive theory and a whole bunch of folks in white coast would have to clean the whiteboard and begin all over again. as it turned out, the particle was observed at 125gev, apparently still favouring super-symmetry, but causing mild consternation in the process.
on 5 july 2012, just the day after the particle was discovered in the large hadron collider, for the rest of us, the sky was still blue, the wind still prevailed from the south-west, and the roads were ever in need of serious repair. and no matter how many other particles might be discovered in the future, it'll probably be of no nevermind to much of the world. we'll still refer to the whole enchilada as atom stuff. because unless you've got a comfy seat at organisation europeenne pour la recherche nucleaire, it's simply all about bosons, quarks and gluons.
from the outside looking in, cycling probably inhabits many of the same misapprehensions. we're in admittedly rather less intense airspace than particle physics, and a whole chunk less theoretical, but for those whose lives are devoid of saddles and pedals, everything conveniently comes under the heading of cycling. which is why we should be truly grateful for ellis bacon's and lionel birnie's the cycling anthology.
having now reached number five in a hopefully infinite series, it has the ability within the framework of around 200 odd pages to dissect the multiverse that is the contemporary and historical world of cycling. and at the pocket-friendly price of £8.99, it's one heck of a lot cheaper than even a lego model of the large hadron collider. though still in its early years of existence, and now published by yellow jersey press, the cycling anthology has assumed the mantle of a cycling institution, its cover still sporting the artistic penmanship of simon scarsbrook, though sadly not in the 'boys own' style of the early editions.
number five splits our world into several complementary strings; brendan gallagher's treatise on those cyclists who fared less than well after the first world war; jeremy whittle's search for panache amongst today's heroes and how the tour de france became the international circus we all know and love, by francois thomazeau. sadly my perennial distaste for poetry led me to skim through ellis bacon's ode to the 2014 tour, but fellow editor lionel birnie's recounting of the rise and fall of the linda mccartney team was a welcome blast from the past.
andy mcgrath's search for joey mcloughlin, ed pickering's testament to the majesty of super-bagneres and matt beaudin's voluminous traipse round france, provide joy for the senses, while matt mcgeehan's eclectic look at the colombian round of the world track championships is almost the perfect aperitif to daniel friebe's unveiling of the short-lived director of the tdf from 1987.
theoretically, hardly the extended panoply that luxuriates in being simply referred to as cycling
tuesday 21 october 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................