HIGGS FOR KIDS? – BUT FIRST…
WE NEED TO INVOLVE THE OTHER 7 BILLION PEOPLE.
“AUTHORITATIVE GLOBAL LEXICON OF MATHEMATICAL TERMS AND SYMBOLS”. CLEAN UP MUDDY, MURKY MATHS: My next Blog will attempt to explain The Higgs Boson to children.
BUT FIRST: The mysteries of micro and macro physics, the study of the smallest and the largest things we know of, would be solved far faster if scientists translated their cryptic Maths-Speak into a common language; for the rest of the world to work with and think about.
Babel and Gobbledygook: At present, the vast majority of research, speculations and conclusions are communicated in a language written and understood by a few thousand people out of 7 billion human souls. Among these few thousand mathematicians there are hundreds of dialects. With difficulty, and only if they can be bothered to communicate rather than mumbling and staring at their own feet at Oxford cocktail parties, mathematicians can sometimes translate others’ dialects back into their own peculiar alphabet of self-selected, secret, arcane symbols and terms, a muddled lexicon which has evolved haphazardly through history and across geography since Lucy, Adam and Eve scratched the height of their children on a rockface with a flint.
Not only do mathematicians simply adopt any alphabetic symbol, from any ancient or modern language they happen across, to substitute for normal words and numbers, they use punctuation marks stuck above and below their numbers, brackets, nested brackets, vague wavy lines, and all manner of odd shapes in formulas and algorithms that they claim are masterpieces of brevity, clarity and communication. What self-deception and mass illusion.
Poles, Perches, Rods, Ergs, Horse-Power, Metres, Litres and US Gallons: What their dense, esoteric, scribbled symbols are intended to represent (to us ordinary folk) are incomprehensible jumbled Units of Measure. Likewise, these units have been acquired, stolen and borrowed from every civilization that has ever measured anything, anywhere at any time. No unit is ever rationalized or discarded; and all are whimsically pressed into service by isolated obscurantists, neurotically hiding their light under a bushel. Take a look at Energy:
There are thousands of different units; hundreds in any scientific discipline or craft you care to examine. AND THERE IS NO STANDARD DICTIONARY. Mathematics is the ultimate example of the blind leading the blind – and the deaf dumb and brain damaged too. And we haven’t even touched on computer languages.
Astonishingly, NASA is still (2012) struggling, having lost space craft due to conversion errors, with trying to convert US gallons – to Imperial gallons etc – to Metric litres (which they misspell liters).
With the recent advent of computers and a bit more international cooperation – it is time that mathematics and scientific terms were tidied up, rationalized, pruned and subjected to a standard dictionary.
GET A LOGICAL GRIP, JOIN THE GLOBAL COMMUNITY AND TIDY UP YOUR ACT: All science, including the search for the Higgs Boson, would greatly benefit from being expressed in widely understood languages using as few common units as possible. If all 7 billion people on the planet were able to understand and comment on the problems – the problems would be rapidly solved.
The present mathematics system is akin to rendering Shakespeare into Medieval-Icelandic-Finnish written in Runic Symbols, sharing the plays only with the four other people on Earth who claim to understand the language; then despising the other 7 billion souls for not appreciating The Bard Obscurantist terms do create jobs-for-life in secret hermetic covens – but are not in the spirit of the modern age and do not get the job done.
Indeed, NASA lost an unmanned mission owing to a mix-up between metric and imperial units. In September 1999, its $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter probe was destroyed because its attitude-control system used imperial units but its navigation software used metric units. As a result, it was 100 kilometres too close to Mars when it tried to enter orbit around the planet.
Units have also played a role in other spacecraft problems. In 2006, the guidance system on NASA’s DART spacecraft went awry and caused it to ram into a military satellite it was merely meant to dock with.
Before DART’s launch, NASA found that GPS data on its position was mistakenly being read by its computer in feet. Ironically, correcting this to metres in a simulator resulted in an incorrect change to another parameter that was programmed into the spacecraft – a problem that led to the collision.