You gotta love the Internet. One minute I’m outside scrutinizing a pregnant doe’s woo-hoo, looking for signs of eminent delivery, and the next I’m chatting via e-mail with a quantum physicist from a prestigious Australian university. I’ve had the pleasure of conducting a minor business transaction with Dr. Andrew White, professor of physics at the University of Queensland, in Australia.
It’s obvious from Dr. White’s website that he’d be comfortable talking shop with Albert Einstein, and his curriculum vitae indicates he didn’t fall asleep in eighth grade Earth science class (mine was right after lunch – what was I supposed to do?).
Corresponding with Dr. White makes me feel a bit like Forrest Gump, but my resume has something Dr. White’s does not: the Eastern Academy Mary Jane Science Award. By the time I graduated high school in 1976 I had managed to take, and pass, all of the small private school’s science classes, so I guess the faculty felt I was worthy of the award. Standards were a bit lower in the 70s. However, the award was sponsored by Norfolk’s Mary Jane Bakery, so I guess that proves that sliced bread really is one of man’s greatest scientific achievements.
The Mary Jane Science Award - heavier than the Nobel
I doubt Dr. White is jealous of my award. Besides his obvious brilliance, he’s warm and engaging. So, as one of the few in our county with a subscription to Discover Magazine, I thought I’d help Dr. White with his quantum research. Rural farms are natural laboratories for physics, and farmers are often defacto scientists. Perhaps we can contribute to science in ways not found in the average university lab.
For instance, physicists are always on the lookout for Dark Matter, theoretical matter than may make up the majority of mass in the universe. There are three general classifications of Dark Matter: Hot Dark Matter, Warm Dark Matter and Cold Dark Matter. Well, I’ve found them all. It’s goat poop.
Goat poop is everywhere. Really. And through careful observation and new batteries for my HP 12c calculator, I’ve determined that a large herd of goats can produce enough poop to account for most of the universe’s mass. It’s created hot, becomes warm on the ground, and transforms into Cold Dark Matter on the bottom of your work boots overnight. You be the judge.
I’m willing to theorize that in the outer reaches of our solar system, beyond the Kuiper belt, is the Caprine Feces belt, an orbiting ring of goat poop comprising a googleplex of marble-sized caprine excrement, so massive it could engulf a million suns. So how did these countless goat balls get out there? Why, they were ejected by millions of miniature black holes, of course (come on, you had to see that one coming).
Another vexing physics problem is the search for the Theory of Everything, a universal equation that would bind Einstein’s theories of General and Special Relativity with Quantum Mechanics. Newtonian physics says that an object cannot be in two places at the same time. Quantum Mechanics theorizes it is possible at the sub-atomic level.
This is heady stuff, unless you have horses. They’re the bridge between the known physical and quantum worlds. Take the horse hoof – it can be directly under the horse while at the same time on your foot, even though you are several feet away. You may think this is a flawed observation, but I know that when gravity draws the mass of the horse onto my foot, my toes are changed at the quantum level. If we can understand gravity and the horse, the Theory of Everything will become apparent.
And, if you’ll notice, the Theory of Everything is abbreviated TOE. Coincidence? I think not.
Farmers also have a keen understanding of the equation E=MC2. Einstein got the equation right, but got the terms wrong. “E” is the number if equines, while “MC” stands for mashed cuticles. Therefore, to determine the number of horses a person owns, calculate the square root of the total of his mashed cuticles (toes and fingers), and voila, you have the number. If a farmer has only one mashed cuticle, his wife is probably tending to the horses.
I’ve noticed that physicists love particle accelerators. The world’s most powerful is the Large Hadron Collider, operated by CERN on the boarder of France and Switzerland. That’s certainly something to be proud of, but rural folks have particle accelerators too. We call them shotguns.
At LHC (cool, scientist-speak, eh?) they accelerate sub-atomic particles to nearly the speed of light (that’s almost as fast as my wife drives), in opposite directions around a large loop and crash them into each other. I’ve seen graphics of the resulting collisions and it’s impressive. But not as impressive as buckshot from a 12-gauge ripping into a warm bottle of Budweiser at 10 feet. Now THAT’s a particle collision.
Quarks, muons and leptons. I always thought these were new shapes in Lucky Charms, but they’re actually the names of sub-atomic particles. There are also gluons, which I thought were similar to Klingons – those tiny little slivers of rolled toilet paper that collect near Uranus (I never pass on a Uranus joke).
Anyway, country folk are quite familiar with sub-atomic particles. In fact, as we age, anything smaller than a marble is deemed sub-atomic if you’re not wearing your reading glasses. And they are all named “damn things,” as in, “Where’d that damn thing go?”
One of the biggest challenges for the physicists at LHC is finding the Higgs boson, a theoretical sub-atomic particle thought to be responsible for all mass. I haven’t found the Higgs boson, but an eccentric farmer down the road has a bison named Higgs. He’s definitely massive, and a prodigious producer of Brown Matter, Dark Matter’s bovine equivalent, and an element that constitutes the majority of every politician’s cerebral cortex.
Another coincidence? Noooooo.
I hope Dr. White can use some of my research. I’d be satisfied to simply get an honorable mention at his Nobel ceremony, but even if I don’t, I wish him all the best.