Homer Simpson Predicted the Mass of the Higgs Boson Particle 14 Years Before Scientists Discovered It

(Image: Fox)

In 1998, The Simpsons episode “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” depicted lovable dunce Homer Simpson as a failed inventor. At one point, he writes a mathematical equation on a chalkboard. Simon Singh, the author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets says that this equation describes the mass of the Higgs boson subatomic particle . . . more than a decade before scientists discovered it! The Daily Telegraph reports:

Simon Singh, author of The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets, told a literary festival audience that the series is staffed by writers with an interest in maths.

The Simpsons is the most mathematical TV show on prime-time television in history. A lot of the writers on The Simpsons are mathematicians," he said.

"That equation predicts the mass of the Higgs boson. If you work it out, you get the mass of a Higgs boson that's only a bit larger than the nano-mass of a Higgs boson actually is.

"It's kind of amazing as Homer makes this prediction 14 years before it was discovered."

When I encountered this story, it struck me as suspiciously too good to be true. It may turn out false as many astonishing science news stories do. But note that Simon Singh has a doctorate in particle physics, so presumably he knows what he’s talking about.

-via Glenn Reynolds

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Plugging those numbers in gives a value of 774 GeV/c^2 for the mass, when the actual mass is around 125 GeV/c^2.

If I remember the timing of things, by the late 90s there was already evidence that the Higgs boson would be heavier than ~90 GeV/c^2, and some expectation, that if it existed, it would be below 1000, and possibly in the 100-200 range.

It looks like some writer just too the Planck mass (the stuff under the square root), a "natural" unit of mass, and multiplied it by other constants until getting something within an order of magnitude of what was known at the time. It would have been closer if they dropped the pi, and just stuck with the fine structure constant (which is almost 1/137).
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