Yesterday my colleague Nazanin Rafsanjani sent around a New York Times story about the search for the theoretical Higgs boson, aka the “God Particle.” Teams of physicists are trying to find out why particles have mass by smashing atoms into each other inside particle accelerators. They hope that by breaking them into measurable bits, one MIGHT turn out to be the Higgs boson, which is theorized to bestow mass upon other particles. Still with me? Anyway, Nazanin flagged one bit of the story in particular (get it? in particular?):
It has led to a joke in physics circles now: The Higgs boson has not been discovered yet, but its mass is 125 billion electron volts.
Nazanin wrote, “If you understand this joke, please explain it to me.”
Alas, I do not and cannot. I get that the theoretical mass of the theoretical particle is 125 billion electron volts, but I just don’t get what makes that particular statement funny. Nor do I travel “in physics circles,” but I do happen to have the e-mail address of Vivek Sharma, the physicist who is spearheading the search for the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland. So I asked him, “Does this joke make you laugh and if so why?” His reply:
I saw this. It’s funny. Got a chuckle out of it!
But he NEVER EXPLAINED WHY!
So I put it to you. Is that funny? More importantly, why? Hit the comments, and show your work.