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Revision as of 05:35, 4 March 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!

We have collaboratively explained Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". xkcd comics, and only Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",". (Expression error: Unrecognised punctuation character ",".%) remain. Add yours while there's a chance!

Latest comic

Go to this comic explanation

Higgs Boson
'Can't you just use the LHC you already built to find it again?' 'We MAY have disassembled it to build a death ray.' 'Just one, though.' 'Nothing you should worry about.' 'The death isn't even very serious.'
Title text: 'Can't you just use the LHC you already built to find it again?' 'We MAY have disassembled it to build a death ray.' 'Just one, though.' 'Nothing you should worry about.' 'The death isn't even very serious.'
Candidate Higgs boson events from collisions between protons in the LHC. (from Wikimedia Commons)

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: More detailed explanation required. What does "'The death isn't even very serious'" mean?
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

Cueball and Ponytail claim that they have "lost" the Higgs boson. They are therefore applying for further grant money to find it again. This is a humorous play on the term "finding" when applied to fundamental particles. The common usage means to discover or observe the existence of a class of particles, rather than to know the current location of an individual particle.

The Higgs boson is an elementary particle that is predicted by a physical model of the universe (the 'Standard Model'). Observing evidence that Higgs bosons really exist is a key test of this model: if a search for the Higgs boson had failed to find evidence confirming its existence then the Standard Model would have been shown to be an incorrect description of reality. Finding the Higgs boson was one of the main reasons why the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built: to create energies high enough for the Higgs boson to become manifest. The point is, once evidence for its existence has been observed it is not possible to 'lose' the Higgs boson in a way implied by Cueball and Ponytail.

In the title text, the off-screen questioner wonders why Cueball and Ponytail can't use the LHC to find the particle again. The implication is that this would avoid spending another $3 billion. Their responses imply that the pair have already dismantled the LHC and converted its components into a death ray (a particle-beam weapon to be exact). The ostensibly reassuring platitudes offered mimic those used to placate those who were worried about possible apocalyptic consequences of commissioning the LHC, for instance the creation of black holes, strange matter, a vacuum bubble or proton-eating magnetic monopoles.

Meagan's mention that "The death isn't even very serious" in the title text may be a reference to a Isaac Asimov's "I, Robot." Robopsychologist Dr. Susan Calvin tells supercomputer The Brain not to worry about death, that it wasn't a "big deal," when the robot is working on an equation relating to hyper drive.

Transcript

Voice Offscreen: Tell us about your proposal.
Ponytail: We're requesting $3 billion in funding to find the Higgs boson.

Voice Offscreen: ...wait. Didn't you already find it a year or two ago?
Cueball: Yes, well, um.

Ponytail: ...OK, this is embarrassing.
Cueball: See, the thing is —

Voice Offscreen: Don't tell us you lost it already.
Ponytail: Look.
Ponytail: In our defense, it's really small.

Is this out of date? Clicking here will fix that.

New here?

You can read a brief introduction about this wiki at explain xkcd. Feel free to sign up for an account and contribute to the wiki! We need explanations for comics, characters, themes, memes and everything in between. If it is referenced in an xkcd web comic, it should be here.

  • List of all comics contains a complete table of all xkcd comics so far and the corresponding explanations. The red links (like this) are missing explanations. Feel free to help out by creating them! Here's how.

Rules

Don't be a jerk. There are a lot of comics that don't have set in stone explanations; feel free to put multiple interpretations in the wiki page for each comic.

If you want to talk about a specific comic, use its discussion page.

Please only submit material directly related to —and helping everyone better understand— xkcd... and of course only submit material that can legally be posted (and freely edited.) Off-topic or other inappropriate content is subject to removal or modification at admin discretion, and users who repeatedly post such content will be blocked.

If you need assistance from an admin, feel free to leave a message on their personal discussion page. The list of admins is here.

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