Q. I recently discovered a Higgs boson particle behind my sofa. My first thought was to sweep it into a small pan and release it outside, but my wife says they are very rare and that there is no assurance it could survive in the wild, especially as its presence behind the sofa suggests it has been domesticated. Possibly, the home’s previous owner left it behind in the mistaken impression that it had run away. I know this sort of thing happens with cats. What is the best course of action?
S. Hawking, London, Ont.
A. Observe the particle for a day or two. Does it remain motionless? Is it active? Do you see a marked increase in activity and gravitational pull on sunny days? There are “indoor” particles and “outdoor” particles and, should you decide to keep this one, it would be well to know its habits and preferences.
Q. Last week, while Simonizing my super collider, I noticed a long, bluish scratch on the side. The colour matched my neighbor’s motor car. I have no witnesses, but this seems unlikely to be a coincidence. Should I confront him or let it pass? The damage is only to the surface and the collider still splits atoms quite crisply.
R. Feynman, Santa Fe, N.M.
A. Sir, whom do you think you are fooling? First, it is quite likely that one of the neighborhood toughs has “keyed” your collider whilst walking by. Young men are like that: no respect for the property of others and given to petty vandalism simply for the cheap hoots. I remember the same problem with a small cyclotron I kept in my back garden for the birds. Young people today are punks, I tell you. But that is neither here nor there. Judging from your spelling patterns, you are clearly not from New Mexico. So I put it to you Mr. “Feynman” — if that is even your real name — what are you playing at?
Q. My elderly neighbor has become quite nosy of late. He stands in his apartment down the hall and turns on a flashlight and the beam goes around the corner, slips under the door to my flat and frightens my tropical fish. Many people do not realize it, but fish have their own Circadian rhythms and a sudden flash of light can have them up all night. I have raised this issue with my neighbor and he insists that my entire premise is silly and that he only ever directs his flashlight beam at the YWCA across the street. Should I get the landlord involved in this? My fish are becoming very edgy.
N. Bohr, Gotterdammerung, N.Y.
A. I think any school child will tell you that light cannot bend. That would be a child from one of those charter schools, where instruction focuses on the arts. Do not trust them in matters of science. Place a large, magnetized rock outside your apartment door to deflect the path of your neighbor’s flashlight beam. You might also want to let your fish out once in a while. Their skittishness could be a result of obeing cooped up.
Q. I was working on some calculations during a layover in St. Louis when I noticed that, according to the principles of quantum mechanics, God has been playing dice with the universe. Now, I am fairly certain that God is well past 21 and entitled to play whatever games he chooses. But I think most responsible scientists will tell you that the age of the universe is an altogether unsettled matter. This begs the point: should the universe be playing dice with God? Are money bets involved? Are any laws being broken? I raised this matter with my minister and he was, frankly, a little evasive. I smell a coverup.
R. Oppenheimer, Selinsgrove, Pa.
A. I would stay clear of this one. Once either of them knows you are aware of their dice games, one or the other, or both, will be cajoling you to join them. This might seem like a pleasant diversion, but soon enough they’ll be arguing about money and asking you to “spot” them a few dollars here and there with promises of clear weather or a reward in the afterlife. Don’t let yourself get sucked into their bad habits. The last time God gambled, we got Nixon. Don’t be a chump.