Yesterday I finished a fascinating book. Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray by Sabine Hossenfelder.
In the course of her book, Dr. Hossenfelder describes in a general non technical way how at times in the past theoretical physicists have predicted the existence of particles that had not yet been seen in any experiments. It seems, if I have this right, which is no sure thing by any means, that physicists form theories by extending mathematical formulas that have been shown to describe our reality. In performing such extensions, on occasion theoretical physicists will posit the existence of a particle or particles because that particle or those particles are necessary to the proper functioning of the formula. For example, as I understand it, please see caveat above, for many years the Standard Model of particle physics as generally formulated posited the existence of the Higgs Field and its corresponding particle, the Higgs Boson even though it had not been seen. Physicists were confident of its existence because it was necessary to complete the Standard Model’s formulas. And in 2012, the Higgs Boson was observed confirming the theoretical prediction.
So, last night the Lovely Marianne and I were watching a Hallmark Movie (yes, we will occasionally view Hallmark movies, but I feel I must now make a ritual denunciation of them as shallow and cheesy and…fill in the blank). Anyway, last night’s fine piece of cinema was A Princess for Christmas.
In the movie, we meet Jules who after her sister and brother-in-law (Charles)’s tragic deaths is responsible for their two children Maggie (6?) and Milo (14?). Charles it seems was the estranged son of Edward, the Duke of Castlebury (Castlebury being one of the many tiny European monarchies desperate to marry off their royal offspring to American youth). One day out of the blue Duke Edward’s butler shows up on Jules’ doorstep. Duke Edward wants to mend family fences and invites his grandchildren Maggie and Milo to spend Christmas at Castlebury Hall. Jules, of course, is invited along as well.
Okay with the stage set, here is where we combine Hallmark and Theoretical Physics. Jules and the children had just arrived at Castlebury Hall when the Lovely Marianne asked, “When do we get to meet Edward’s other son?”
“His what?” I ask because there has been no mention thus far of a brother to Charles. As far as we know, the deceased Charles was Duke Edward’s only child.
“His other son. The Duke has to have another son.”
And sure enough, not a minute later Ashton, Charles’ brother, Duke Edward’s second son drives up in a sports car.
And it hit me. Just like a good theoretical physicist, The Lovely Marianne postulated the existence of a thus far unobserved character. She was certain of his existence even in the absence of any factual basis for her supposition because he was necessary to the formula. Her perspicacity was demonstrated when we observed that character, thus confirming her theoretical prediction.
Who says formulaic, cheesy entertainment can’t be educational?