Well played, Higgs. Well played indeed.
For most of your 83 years you were nothing more than little Peter Higgs, schlepping around Scotland, claiming to be a physicist. That was brilliant enough as it is, because nobody—not even the guy signing your paycheck—has any idea what it is that a physicist does. Or doesn't do. You probably even took to smoking a briar pipe because it made you look professorial and… well, Scottish.
But nobody knew your name.
And then you came up with an idea for a subatomic particle that nobody—not even you—could see or even prove existed. Or didn't exist. You claimed that your little imaginary speck was the most important particle of all, because it held the universe together.
Without it all matter—the earth under my house, the floor under my chair, my ample buttocks in the chair—would puff into vapor and cease to exist. And although my buttocks has had some vapor-puffing experience, it would be disturbing to see it happen to everything else in the universe.
You called it the God Particle, which was another stroke of genius, because who is cold-hearted enough to go on record taking a stance against God? Well, maybe divorce lawyers, but nobody else.
And then—go figure—some of your physicist buddies actually went and found the doggone thing. And to honor your brilliance, they named it after you. They called it the Higgs boson.
And so I say again: Well played, Higgs.
After all, who doesn't want to have a thing named after them?
Long ago, when a guy made a discovery, modesty insisted that he name it after something greater than himself. The guy who discovered that a week is made up of seven separate days named them after the moon, and the sun, and an assortment of Norse gods like Thor, Fria and Saturn.
And then some other guy discovered that those weeks like to hang around in 12 gangs known as months. He decided to name the months after still more gods, like Janus, Februus and Mars.
And then a guy named Caesar came along. He dug his wee heels in so deeply during his birth that the doctor had to reach for a scalpel to pop him out. When Caesar became rich and powerful, doctors who deliver babies named a whole section after him.
After that, the lid was off. When Columbus bumped into a new continent, he named it after a buddy of his, Amerigo. Considering how poor Columbus was at spelling, we can only be glad he didn't try to name his new land Vespucci.
The name game was off and running. Salk had his vaccine. Burnside had his facial hair. Crapper had his toilet.
And I have to admit that I too yearn to have something named after me.
Oh, I once had a turkey sandwich named after me at a new restaurant that had opened in town. I was the first one to order it, so I asked if they would name it after me. They agreed, but within months the restaurant went belly up, and so did my eponymous snack. Today if you go into any other restaurant and order a Spicy Tom, they will just stare at you. And then they'll serve you a Sloppy Joe or a Hoagie.
So I'm ready to try again at this self-serving naming game. And I'm desperate, because I'm not getting any younger. The clock is ticking.
There's little chance of my dreaming up some subatomic particle, as you did, Higgs. Besides, once a name like God Particle has been used as a synonym for you and your little discovery, where do you go from there?
If there are any continents left to be discovered, they're probably pretty remote, and I get seasick. So that's out.
I hear that there are swarms of insects in the Amazon that have never been discovered. But they probably bite.
But I still yearn to have something—anything—named after me forever and for always. Heck, at this point I'd settle for a syndrome.
So let's try this: Let's all agree that a guy who longs to have something named after him—even though he is entirely self-serving and undeserving of the honor—is suffering from Kerthitis. There are probably plenty of guys out there with the syndrome, but they're not desperate enough to want their name attached to it. Well, I'll do it. I'll take one for the team.
There, it's done.
From now on, for as long as there are God Particles holding things together—or divorce lawyers tearing them asunder—Kerthitis will make me a household name.
And what is more, anybody who ever had a thing named after him, or who wanted to, will be one of my Kerthitis crew. Let Vespucci have his America—he's a Kerthitis sufferer. He's mine. Let Crapper have his toilet—he's mine, too.
You too, Higgs. You can have your God Particle and even call it by your name—the Higgs boson. But I've got you. Go ahead and try to hide in Edinburgh—which was once in a land called Caledonia until some guy named Scot came along. You're mine. Scot is too.
You're all mine.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
- - -The author splits his time between Naples and Chicago. Not every day, though. Contact him at email@example.com. Why wait a whole week for your next visit to Planet Kerth? Get T.R.'s new book, "Revenge of the Sardines," available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine online book distributors. His column will appear every Friday.