D’oh! Did Homer Simpson predict the mass of the Higgs boson?

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

Fourteen years before researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) first observed the elementary particle known as the Higgs boson, another individual developed an equation that correctly predicted the mass of the so-called “God particle.”

That individual, believe it or not, was Homer Simpson.

According to The Huffington Post, a 1998 episode of the popular animated television program ‘The Simpsons’ shows the titular clan’s typically thick-headed patriarch standing in front of a chalkboard containing a complex mathematical formula prefiguring CERN’s discovery.

The discovery was made by Dr. Simon Singh, a physicist and the author of the 2013 book The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets. Dr. Singh spotted the equation in the episode entitled “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” in which Homer attempts to become an inventor.

[STORY: ‘Simpsons’ to help improve British diets]

“That equation predicts the mass of the Higgs boson. If you work it out, you get the mass of a Higgs boson that’s only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is,” the author told The Independent. “It’s kind of amazing… My PhD is in particle physics, so I was similarly shocked by Homer’s equation predicting the mass of the Higgs boson.”

What the crap is Higgs boson?

Dr. Singh is well versed in the Higgs boson, a particle whose existence was first predicted back in the 1960s but was not detected experimentally until 2012. Not only is he the author of multiple books on various scientific topics, but the doctoral thesis he prepared while studying at Oxford University focused on CERN, the Swiss thinktank that confirmed the particle’s existence.

The existence of the particle was first predicted by Professor Peter Higgs, a theoretical physicist at the University of Edinburgh. His theory suggested that all subatomic particles interact within an energy field known as the Higgs field, giving them mass, according to the Daily Mail.

Just as how electromagnetic radiation can exist as both an energetic wave and a particle at the same time, the Higgs field has a corresponding particle known as the Higgs boson, the UK media outlet added. The proof did not come until recently, however, when scientists using the massive Large Hadron Collider announced they had found a particle that matched Higgs’ predictions.

Should Homer win the Nobel Prize?

They were able to prove the existence of a new particle with a mass of 125Gev/c2 thanks to a series of experiments that cost $13.25 billion (£8.6 billion). For their efforts, the CERN experts, as well as Higgs and his colleagues, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. No word yet if the Nobel committee will be adding Homer Simpson’s name to the list of honorees.

In reality, Dr. Singh revealed that one of the script writers for the episode in question, David X. Cohen, was responsible for sneaking in the mathematical equations onto the blackboard. Cohen, a gifted mathematician who studied physics at Harvard University, and high-school friend David Schiminovich, an astronomer at Columbia University, developed the formula together.

[VIDEO: Is the Higgs boson really the Higgs boson?]

“The equation is a playful combination of various fundamental parameters, namely the Planck constant, the gravitational constant, and the speed of light,” Dr. Singh said. “If you look up these numbers and plug them into the equation, it predicts a mass of 775 giga-electron-volts (GeV), which is not unreasonably higher than the 125 GeV estimate that emerged when the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012.”

“Indeed, 775 GeV was not a bad guess bearing in mind that Homer is an amateur inventor and he performed this calculation fourteen years before the physicists at CERN… tracked down the elusive particle,” he added.


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