Thursday, November 3, 2016


Science wants to have unified answers to the Big Questions. So did LOST viewers.

A new physics model of the universe, formulated by Guillermo Ballestros at the University of Paris-Saclay in France and his colleagues, may be the answer to  explain dark matter, neutrino oscillations, baryogenesis, inflation and the strong CP problem.

Dubbed SMASH, the model is based on the standard model of particle physics, but has a few bits tacked on. The standard model is a collection of particles and forces that describes the building blocks of the universe. Although it has passed every test thrown at it, it can’t explain some phenomena.

For example,  science does not understand dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up 84 per cent of the universe’s mass. Nor why there is more matter than antimatter. Nor why the universe grew so rapidly in its youth during a period known as "inflation."  

Something is still fundamentally missing from the standard model. Scientists think they new "new" particles to help balance or explain the formulas.

Some models, like supersymmetry,  add hundreds of particles – none of which have been spotted at colliders like the LHC. But SMASH adds only six: three neutrinos, a fermion and a field that includes two particles.

SMASH is several theories smashed together. It builds on Shaposhnikov’s model from 2005, which added three neutrinos to the three already known in order to solve four fundamental problems in physics: dark matter, inflation, some questions about the nature of neutrinos, and the origins of matter.
SMASH adds a new field to explain some of those problems a little differently. This field includes two particles: the axion, a dark horse candidate for dark matter, and the inflaton, the particle behind inflation.

As a final flourish, SMASH uses the field to introduce the solution to a fifth puzzle: the strong CP problem, which helps explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe.

Why is this important? Curiosity about the heavens has been the main focal point of humanity from the very beginning. Our first ancestors looked up to the sky and wondered what it was. The sun and the moon orbits fascinated people. They used the sky to help organize their lives to correspond to the seasons. Some sociologists believe that the questions about nature helped develop mankind's brain function to be the planet's alpha species. 

To unlock the building blocks of the universe may be the key to understanding everything: what causes cancer, why humans have a limited life span, what elements of the universe are or are not on Earth?

As these questions continue to puzzle science, they are also used by writers to speculate on how the lack of knowledge can be captured into dramatic prose. The "what if" premise of film and television shows stokes the curiosity of the viewer. If there is a real sci-fi backbone in the stories, it can mentor people to find scientific careers (as many NASA employees admit Star Trek did for them.)

LOST had an opportunity to inspire a new generation to science if it captured the essence of any new theory about the universe in its mythological story foundation. But it did not. It still remains a disappointing lapse by the show runners. These new scientific theories could have helped explain the time/space tangents, the strange EM radiation and the Numbers used in the Hatch.