Get your mass handed to you

By Phil Plait | December 26, 2009 12:00 pm

If you want to lose weight, then you should avoid this Ebay auction, where someone has a Higgs boson up for bids.


The Higgs boson, for those not up on their Standard Model of Particle Physics, is the subatomic particle that is theoretically responsible for giving all the other little particles their mass, and its detection is one of the main goals of the Large Hadron Collider. Come to think of it, the folks at CERN could’ve saved a lot of cash had they simply bid here instead of building a bazillion dollar machine to look for the Higgs. But then how would Brian Cox find work?

And I love that graphic. 10? That’s a big number. You’d think magnifying the Higgs by that amount would make it look bigger.

Anyway, read the whole thing, because it’s pretty funny. Of course, this is a joke, and Ebay will no doubt take it down soon, so look before it’s gone and you’re doomed to travel the Universe forever with your mass kicked.

Tip o’ the spin 1/2 lepton to BABloggee Martin Kielty.


Comments (30)

  1. Ok, that’s just too funny.

  2. I already have so many Higgs bosons around here, why would I need one more?

  3. I love the Woo 101 by the numbers construction of the page:

    Annoying colours.
    Random punctuation and capitalization.
    Wild assertions.

    Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of that? Oh wait, I already have too many bosons in my possession!

  4. Adam

    Anyone else tempted to bid?

  5. @Adam, yes! ūüėÄ Although I am sure I could photoshop up a nice certificate too, and even frame it!

  6. OtherRob

    I’ve never understood why particles need another particle to give them mass. Don’t they just have mass on their own? Could someone explain that to me? And please note that I have a liberal arts degree so please use small words. ūüėČ

  7. Brian

    It’s got two bids now. I wonder — does the inclusion of the certificate make it more likely or less likely that ebay will let this auction stand?

  8. DigitalAxis

    “W and Z bosons (available in packs of 2,800,000)”

    My ignorance of particle physics is showing, but I assume the number is part of a further joke…

  9. @OtherRob: The Standard Model of modern particle physics relies on various symmetries in nature to predict and explain particle properties and interactions. One of the symmetries in the model leads to the prediction that force-carrying particles are massless. This is true for photons and (I believe) gluons, but not for W and Z bosons (the weak force carriers), which are almost ridiculously massive. The Higgs boson was an attempt to break the symmetry by introducing a field which different gauge bosons (force carriers) interact with differently.

    Once you start trying to explain the origin of mass for a certain class of particles, it’s natural to start wondering about how to explain the mass of all particles.

  10. That’s a whole lot funnier than the guy who tried to auction off an ass kicking.

  11. Noam

    @Adam – oh hell yes! Lucky I don’t have an ebay account, otherwise I would have already clicked on this thingy! Especially since I since recently have a new girlfriend that I want to get jiggy with and keep ūüėõ Guess I’ll have to manage differently

  12. Chief

    Best thing since flying toasters. Had to read out loud and in the informercial voice to really get the tone of the text. Brilliant.

    If you want to see it close up though, you would have to raise a googleplex to infinity.

  13. Carter

    @OtherRob and Naked Bunny

    Naked Bunny’s right. Gluons appear to be massless, but W and Z bosons have something like 86 and 97 times the mass (respectively) of a proton. The Higgs field was postulated as a theoretical explanation as to why different classes of particles have different masses. The Higgs field is, in theory, a non-zero-value field permeating all of space, and some particles like the photon pass through this field essentially unhindered and are massless. At very high temperatures like those seen before 10^-35 seconds after the big bang, the Higgs field would have oscillated rapidly and had an average value of zero, so before this perhaps all particles were massless. After some cooling this field settled down towards its lowest-energy (but non-zero-value!) state and allowed the electroweak force to separate into the weak nuclear and electromagnetic forces, as their particles now had very different masses. So, particles need other particles to give them mass because of our theory about what happened very close to the ‘start’ of the universe and to explain why these forces are now separate.

    I find that I cannot possibly do physics justice in the ways that a good book can. For a good read check out a Brian Greene book from your library.

  14. Darn! I just blew all my money on neutrinos! :)

  15. Yeebok

    That’s too funny. Thanks Phil :)

  16. OtherRob

    Thanks, Naked Bunny and Carter. Not sure I’m all the way there yet, but your explanations do help. And though I am far from understanding all of it, I find it so amazing that we can talk about what happened 10^-35 seconds after the big bang. :)

  17. It actually has five bids.
    My only concern is the shipping. If I win it, how will I ever find it amid all those styrofoam peanuts?

  18. Grimbold

    I had a good laugh at the suggestion that owning the Higgs Boson would help you get teh gurlz.

  19. Gary Ansorge

    Just think. If we could just eliminate the Higgs Bosons from our space ship, we would instantly be moving at light speed. Now, THAT’S a really cool space drive.

    GAry 7

  20. I’ll take twelve, and celebrate my impending awesomeness with a glass of Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 gallon, 128 fl oz. (link)

  21. 22. Gary Ansorge Says:

    Just think. If we could just eliminate the Higgs Bosons from our space ship, we would instantly be moving at light speed. Now, THAT’S a really cool space drive.

    Believe it or not (any truly hard core SF fan would know about this), E.E. “Doc” Smith wrote in his Lensmen series about “inertialess drives”, which sounds to me a LOT like what you propose here….


  22. Bidding is currently up to £21.00.

    Based on the the seller’s 516 transactions there at eBay, he has a 100% rating. How could one go wrong? Although he hasn’t sold anything since 2006.

    Personally I am going to pass on it. I weigh too much as it is.

  23. Gary Ansorge

    24. John Paradox :

    Inertialess drives have been around a long time in SciFi. Postulated but unexplained. With the Higgs Boson, we have a possible candidate for a true inertialess drive, though it might take a planets worth of mass/energy to implement it(similar limitation applies to the Alcubierre space warping drive). Removing Higgs from particles would likely be a very energy intensive endeavor.(See: 14. Carter, for his example of electro/weak force interactions).

    I really liked Heinliens version of an FTL drive. (in Methuselahs Children).

    Gary 7

  24. This reminds me of a movie where a guy was selling USA presindent engraved on metal for 20$ – in fact thy were some regular cents(dollar cents).
    I was just talking with a friend that if this guy has success we could start selling some photons, or electrons, or why not some pozitrons – and lets see who could prove that we didn`t shipped them! We`re not yet sure about starting price…

  25. DLC

    Amusing story, Phil.
    “all I want for christmas is my two higgs bosons” ?

    Gary Ansorage : Smith was the one who came up with the Inertialess drive concept in his Lensmen books. While I hesitate to say he was the originator of the idea, Smith later claimed his Inertialess drive (which he dubbed “The Bergenholm” after it’s fictional inventor) was based on an obscure 1912 paper from an Italian scientist. I haven’t found any such article, but then I don’t have access to journals published before about 1950.
    Smith also often said he preferred his science fiction to be in the “just barely possible” range.

  26. Carter

    Right-o, Gary #26. If the CERN folks think it might take a 14TeV collision to make a paltry amount of Higgs bosons to ‘jump out’ of their normal zero-energy (not zero-value) field, you’d have to do some inordinate amount of work to make ALL of them jump out of a particular area in and around your craft. Then you would have to make this inertialess bubble that you are in somehow move with your ship – and all this without damaging the astronauts as it would then take essentially no force to accelerate them to the speed of light. Who knows what that could do to biologic processes! I think the idea of expanding space behind you and contracting it ahead of you seems more promising for FTL travel. I think Discover did a story on that idea a few months ago.

  27. Pieter Kok

    Ten-to-the-infinity seems like exactly the right magnification to zoom in on a point particle.


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