COLLINS: Higgs boson vanishes in political black hole

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

Gail CollinsScientists in Geneva announced this month that they had found a new subatomic particle that they were 99.999999 percent sure was the elusive Higgs boson, nicknamed the “God particle.” Even though we had no earthly idea what that meant, we were definitely excited.

It’s given us so much to think about: how existence began, the structure of the universe, the difference between bosons and fermions. And, of course, what it will mean to the presidential race.

The first thing all patriotic Americans are going to want to know is why something this important happened elsewhere. The Large Hadron Collider, where the physicists did the work, was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research. We were building a Superconducting Super Collider of our own, in Waxahachie, Texas, but Congress stopped the financing for it in 1993.

“It’s disheartening that a large number of fairly intelligent people could do such a thing,” Leon Lederman, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, said when the budget-cutting House of Representatives ended the program.

But about the Higgs boson. As Dennis Overbye explained in The Times, it is “the only manifestation of an invisible force field, a cosmic molasses that permeates space and imbues elementary particles with mass.” And we have so many questions. Does it provide evidence of the existence of parallel worlds? If so, is it possible to move to one that doesn’t have Michele Bachmann?

Most of all, however, we want to know whom this helps in the election:

WOLFEBORO, N.H.—Mitt Romney denounced Barack Obama for allowing Europe to beat the United States at particle physics research. Under his administration, Romney vowed, “All particles that bind the earth together will be discovered in America, by Americans and for Americans.”

Under questioning from reporters, Romney said that his favorite kind of subatomic particle is the fermion.

SOMEWHERE ON A BUS—Speaking to a crowd of blue-collar workers in Ohio, President Barack Obama hailed the scientific news from Geneva as “a great moment in history, not unlike my rescue of the auto industry.” The physicists who made the discovery, Obama noted, all had health insurance.

TRENTON, N.J.—Gov. Chris Christie called for the privatization of the Higgs boson. “Binding the earth together is something that could be handled much more efficiently by the for-profit sector,” the Republican governor and deeply available vice presidential prospect said. “Auctioning off the rights to the Higgs boson will create American jobs and balance American budgets.”

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa—Rick Santorum today denounced the European Organization for Nuclear Research for discovering something that is nicknamed the God particle. “If God had wanted there to be a particle, he’d have given it to Adam and Eve,” said Santorum.

WOLFEBORO, N.H.—Aides to Mitt Romney said the former governor’s favorite kind of subatomic particle is actually the boson.

SOMEWHERE ELSE ON A BUS—President Barack Obama told a crowd of blue-collar workers that there have been more Higgs bosons discovered during his administration than during those of both George Bushes combined.

WOLFEBORO, N.H.—Mitt Romney said that when he called for an American effort to beat the Europeans in particle physics research, he did not actually mean spending money to build a supercollider, but merely “the need for our physicists to think harder.” The Republican presidential contender said he believed this could be accomplished by “the elimination of onerous, physics-research-killing regulations.”

NEW YORK—Donald Trump told reporters that “my people in Hong Kong” have uncovered evidence that America’s failure to take the lead in subatomic particle research was because of a conspiracy between the Obama administration and unnamed Chinese industrialists. He also said that he had invited the Higgs boson to be a contender on “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice.”•

• Collins is editor of The New York Times editorial page. Send comments on this column to

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