When a NYT journalist collides with a particle physics announcement, some of the resulting emissions are.... interesting.
We'll let them have "Physics' Holy Grail" on the grounds that it is a cliché, and thus within journalists' area of expertise to pinpoint exactly the right spot where the use of a cliché is good word choice.
But then we go on to....
- Confirmation of the boson would be "a rendezvous with destiny" for physicists.
- The Higgs field is "an invisible force field, a cosmic molasses."
- Particles "wade" through this molasses.
- "Without this Higgs field, as it is known, or something like it, physicists say all the elementary forms of matter would zoom around at the speed of light, flowing through our hands like moonlight. There would be neither atoms nor life." (Or hands, presumably. Or a moon. Remarkably, none of the physicists who say this would agree to be identified for the article.)
- Proton collisions leave behind "primordial fireballs" and also "debris."
- The evidence for the Higgs boson is "[l]ike Omar Sharif materializing from a distant blur into a man on horseback in the movie 'Lawrence of Arabia.'"
- UPDATE! The NYT fact checkers are on the case! Since I wrote the above quote they have changed it to read "a man on a camel." Good catch, fact checkers!
- Applause greets "data bumps rising like mountains from the sea."
- Quantum theory "is the language of particle physicists." Ah, so maybe we are dealing with idiomatic translation here. That would explain a lot.
- Encountering the "cosmic molasses" quote again, I went and googled the phrase. It turns out that the New York Times writer did not originate it. You will see it around in numerous places, such as this bit written by a British A-level student on a Q-and-A site. Come to think of it, the writing sounds familiar. But for all I know the term was originated by an actual physicist attempting to explain the actual Higgs field to laypersons. So I will give the writer a pass... except that he should have identified the source of the neologism.
- But he isn't lacking in some creativity: the cosmic molasses is "normally invisible and, of course, odorless." All right, all right, I think the writer is actually making a joke there.
Anyway, there are interesting results there, somewhere, under the flowery language.