Regular readers of this blog know that I think our reality is probably a massive peer-to-peer (P2P) networked computer simulation (also see here and here). Some of you may also recall that whereas for most of my life I self-identified as a religious Agnostic, I now self-identify not as a Believer but rather as a Hoper--someone who believes it is a serious epistemic possibility that some sort of 'God' exists, and who hopes against all hope (but does not believe) that a good God (one that can somehow redeem this rather wonderful but rotten world) exists (also see here).
I won't go into full detail here as to why I believe a Creator is a serious epistemic possibility, or why I hold out a sliver of hope (though not a ton!) that Creator might be good, or at least good enough to love. Suffice it to say, I think that if our world is a massive peer-to-peer networked computer simulation, it probably had to be made. Peer-to-peer networking--particularly networking on this massive of a level--is incredibly complex and requires an incredible amount of processing power. One of the other reasons I take the 'God' (or, if you prefer, Creator) hypothesis seriously, though, is that (as I've said before) the more I understand about physics and cosmology, the more miraculous this entire world seems to be.
Now, I'm sure you've all heard of the Fine-Tuning Hypothesis before--the view that our Universe is "finely tuned" in a variety of seemingly-miraculous ways. I'm sure you've heard something like the point that if gravity were just a bit stronger, the Universe never would have expanded as it has; and if gravity had been just a bit weaker, it would have expanded so quickly that galaxies, stars, and so on never could have formed. Or maybe you've heard that if the Carbon atom's Hoyle state had been just a wee bit different, life could never had formed. And so on.
I want to share with you another, more recently discovered case of fine-tuning that, I believe, will knock your socks off. You may (or may not) have heard of the Standard Model of particle physics. While the Standard Model is widely thought to be incomplete, it is an exquisitely well-verified model. It makes crazy-precise predictions about what we should observe in particle colliders, and each of the particles it predicts has been observed. Indeed, the final "key to the puzzle"--the only particle the model predicted but had never been observed, the Higgs Boson--was finally observed (decades after its first prediction) just over two years ago.
The Higgs Boson is a unique particle unlike any other: it is the particle that all other known particles interact with that gives them mass. Without the Higgs, there would be nothing with mass at all! But, here's the really crazy thing. Although the Standard Model did not predict the Higgs' mass, its mass was found to be in literally the most improbable place you could expect to find it. Allow me to explain.
Here is a fun little chart:
As you can see, the Higgs mass was found in a little sliver of the chart labeled "meta-stability." Let me explain what this means. Very roughly, an unstable or non-perturbative universe (red areas) are sort of what they sound like: they are universes that can't possibly work. A stable universe, on the other hand (green area), are universes that work all the time. Finally, there's "metastability" (yellow area), which means that the universe works sometimes but not always. In the metastable area, the Higgs is temporarily set at one value--the value that makes our universe go round--but will someday fall to a different value: yes, that's right, a value with all new physics (since the Higgs will then interact with all other particles in a different way). Not only are we in the yellow area (a place where it is very hard for the Higgs to 'stay'). We are in the almost the littlest sliver of the yellow area: which means that our Higgs will be stable for a super-duper long time, but not always. Someday, the Higgs will change, and our universe will become another--one where, in an instant, none of us, none of our planets, stars, etc. exist. One in which all of physics changes. All in an instant. This is where we found the Higgs boson to be. We found it in the littlest, most unlikely sliver of the most unlikely area to find it.
There is another way to put all of this. Imagine a very steep cliff with almost no jagged edges. If you were to roll a golf-ball toward the edge of this cliff, where would you expect it to end up? Answer: one of two places: either someplace before the edge (i.e. on land before the cliff) or at the very bottom. The chances of the ball somehow stopping on just a tiny jagged edge would the most improbable thing you could imagine--sort of like the very well-known and justly famous cliff-climbing mountain goats:
The observed Higgs value tells us that our universe is like these goats. Or, to use another helpful image, consider an empty coffee cup. If you were to drop an individual coffee droplet out of the sky, where would you expect to find it? Answer: either in the coffee cup, or outside of it. You most certainly not expect to find it perfectly balanced on the lip of the coffee cup for 13.8 billion years, without ever rolling off one side or the other. But this, again, is what our Higgs--our universe--is like. As one commenter writes at a physics blog I visit occasionally:
20 years ago the Higgs mass could have been pretty much anything, but there was one value that was singled out as special: m_H = 125-126 GeV is the boundary of the stability region. Isn't rather remarkable that Nature chose this very special value?
We know that the Lord is subtle but not malicious, but it seems to me that the message that He is now sending is very clear and not the slightest subtle: there is no new BSM physics and the SM is balancing at the brink of instability. Perhaps better to seek to understand this message instead of looking for another class of excuses to ignore it.