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We have an explanation for all [[:Category:Comics|'''{{#expr:{{PAGESINCAT:Comics|R}}-13}}''' xkcd comics]],
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== Latest comic ==
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Revision as of 17:59, 4 March 2014

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1436 xkcd comics, and only 40 (3%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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 play 'hide and seek' with 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. 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.

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.

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