The God Particle

(c) 2012

This is a very exciting day in particle physics.

My father is a theoretical physicist; we summered at what I did not at the time realize were the securely fenced-in cement structures and boxy metal military-style housing on the grounds of Brookhaven National Laboratories.

Theoretical physics–of theoretical picnic fame–is really pure math.

Before there were whiteboards, my father’s office walls were covered with blackboards underneath which stubs of chalk had been plunked haphazardly into pine sills after the conclusions of series of mysterious numbers and symbols.  Sometimes these equations leaped from blackboard to blackboard.  My brothers and I loved to visit there and scribble our own “equations” among the somewhat more professional mathematical work.

I am comforted by the sound of chalk clacking against a blackboard.  I still love the smell of chalk and of chalkdust-dense erasers which could be clapped together to make a puff of white dust that would make us sneeze.  And somewhere in my mind remains a scent I loved but which no longer exists: the smell of the stairs in Pierce Hall, which were covered with a black material that looked like coarse sandpaper but glittered as if it were embedded with silver dust.   Continue reading “The God Particle”

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