Mark Rodgers is a science fiction author who co-wrote a comic called “The Blessed Machine” with the late Jesse Hamm. Intrigued by the science behind particle accelerators, they used colliders as inspiration for a comic that tells a story of a world where the Earth was made inhabitable because of a scientific experiment with the Higgs boson — aka the “God particle.”
“What can we know to be true?” Mark ponders. “Is it only scientific knowledge? And are we dependent upon science itself to understand that truth? Or is there a truth that lives outside of what science can tell us?”
Meet Mark Rodgers, science fiction author. Images from his comic book, “The Blessed Machine,” flash across the screen.
Mark: So what I wanted to explore was to what extent this kind of utopian instinct we have, or this instinct that science will be our savior — that instinct actually became are captor.
Mark began researching large hadron colliders. CERN has the world’s largest particle accelerator. Images from the collider appear on screen, showing long tunnels underground filled with pipes and equipment.
Now that the CERN collider is operative, they do discover that it is true that small little black holes are literally created that exist just for a nanosecond.
Jacob is a boy drawn as a character in his comic book. He is speaking with his mother. Voice actors read the dialogue.
Jacob: Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom!
Mom: What is it, Jacob?
Jacob: Did people live up there where there were gardens and the sun?
Mom: Everyone lived up there a long time ago. But then some scientists tried to do a thing, a big, very important thing.
Mark: A lot of the things that you think about, you know, like some sort of a comet hits the surface or climate change — well, those all have been explored before. So I wanted to explore something where science itself was the inciting incident.
A scene from the comic appears again, showing a leader speaking in front of a large crowd.
Announcer: We have invited you to the Hadron Collider, to be a part of history and witness Higgs fission, the first splitting of the Higgs boson particle. Here in a live feed, we can see the collider less than 50 yards from this very room. To be sure, the Higgs boson isn’t a distinct particle. It’s more like the space between particles. Its fission could create a field of tiny black holes, which would open up a new frontier in technological application. Any second now.
Announcer: There appears…
The comic shows a large explosion.
Mark: In the effort to break apart the Higgs boson, to kind of open that up, that we actually would be opening up an area that should stay unknowable. The supercollider is kind of pure science research in its most extreme form. And the purpose is to, like a collider, it’s to have elements move at such speeds that they actually split, or you can measure smaller and smaller elements to understand some of the mysteries of the universe.
One of the elements the CERN collider was expected to discover is the Higgs boson, the “God particle.” It’s the thing that connects matter together and actually gives other matter gravity. Without the Higgs boson, theoretically all matter would just fly apart and there’d be no cohesion, right? It’d become pure chaos.
Mom from the comic: The black holes disappeared eventually, but the crater they left was so big, it changed the weather all over the world. People couldn’t live on the surface anymore.
The comic shows the boy staring in disbelief.
Mark: Now what can we know to be true? Is it only the scientific knowledge? And are we dependent upon science itself to understand that truth? Or is there a truth that lives outside of what science can tell us?