Friday, 3 June 2011


The other day I was talking with Alice in the Red Lion. We were discussing the role of the anacoluthon in modern novels. As neither of us knew anything about the subject, we eventually moved on to another topic as even people in pubs occasionally do.
“What about this Large Hadron Collider then?” Alice asked as I collected our second gin and tonic from the bar.
“You mean the LHC?” I replied as I sat down, aiming to impress her with the sheer depth of my acronymical knowledge.”
“Yes – what about it?”
“Well what about it?” I poured a soupcon of tonic into my gin, then added more to make it last longer. It’s a dodge I usually try on myself, but it doesn’t work.
“Exactly,” Alice replied. “What about it?”
“Indeed.” At this point I realised the LHC wasn’t quite making it as a topic of conversation. It was turning out to be almost as sterile as the anacoluthon. I took a huge swig of gin and decided to be bold - once I’d finished coughing and spluttering.
“You’ve gone all red in the face again,” Alice said, "you drink too fast."
“I don’t think the protons can be going round with quite enough zip,” I replied, once I’d coughed as little gin as possible into my hankie.
“What protons? I hope you’re not going to suck that hankie.”
“Those protons that zoom round the LHC within a whisker of the speed of light. I still don’t think they go fast enough.” I shoved the hankie deep into my pocket. Alice can be so personal at times.
“How do you know?” Alice sipped her gin in a faux ladylike way.
“Well they haven’t found the Higgs boson, have they?” I replied, adroitly shifting my mind from gin-flavoured hankies to high energy physics.
“I never thought they would – not at those energy levels. They haven't even managed to create a black hole, not even a teeny-weeny one.”
“It must be disappointing for them though.”
“Who cares?” Alice drained her glass with a deft flourish. “Not me that’s for sure. They knew they might fail to find the Higgs, so I’ve no sympathy for them.”
“Nor me. I mean - what can you do with a Higgs boson if you find one?” I pushed my empty glass across the scarred table. “Your round.”
“You suck up gin like a black hole anyway,” said Alice, collecting our glasses.

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