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The Dog Particle

By John Mattingly
When the world’s physicists broke the big news, I heard about it secondhand from an ornery, partially deaf neighbor: “Well,” he said, shaking his head in wonder, “I guess them scientist fellers finally found that diggers’s bone.”

After a courteous pause, I ventured confirmation, “Do you, by chance, mean the Higgs boson particle?”

“Does anybody ever listen to me? Isn’t that what I just said?!”

It was a coincidence of misnomers, partly because one of my childhood dogs was named Digger, and partly because the Higgs boson, sometimes called the “god” particle, is, as many dog lovers have noticed, “dog” spelled backwards. Not only that, there are approximately as many breeds of dogs as there are sub-atomic particles, a coincidence that really can’t be ignored.

While all dog species are the result of humans sculpting (some might say exploiting) mutant and variant gene pools of the wolf, conventional scientific wisdom does not attribute the creation of matter to human sculpting. At least not until lately. Finding the Higgs boson caused some scientists on the fringe to point out that the smallest particle of matter that humans have now identified with the new collider is actually quantized, both in time and substance. This means the basis of matter itself shares a lot of determining characteristics with a pixel. Yes, a pixel, as in what computers can generate for display on a monitor.


All scientists agree that matter is comprised of mostly empty space occupied by fermions (discrete particles like electrons, protons, neutrons, etc.) and bosons (waves such as photons, Higgs fields, etc.) and that the latter give form and substance to the former. The bosons (which can be referred to as pixels) cause the fermions to exist. To some scientists on the edge, this strongly suggests that what we observe as “reality” is not only here because we all agree, it is here as the guest of a computer program.


Meaning everything could be a sim (simulation). We, and the world we know and love are but fermions animated by pixels (bosons). Meaning, ultimately, that some intelligent form of life is actually sculpting matter, and thus sculpting our perception of reality, in a fashion not unsimilar to the way humans have sculpted dog breeds. The computer programmers running this sim have a real sense of humor, using dog and god as inverse code for the irony.

What irony? Well, as a friend of mine noted: if the pixel theory is true, and we are all just sims, it would really tip his wickets that the evolution deniers and history deniers (who, by the latest polling result represent close to half the U.S. population) were accidentally right about humans arriving on Earth in their current form in the last few thousand years or so.

That aside, to drill down into this novel theory of matter a bit deeper, we see by analogy that the sims being created today are getting pretty convincing. I walked into a box store recently and saw a football game on a big TV screen and I thought it was a real game. But no, it was a sim, and only when I stopped and studied it carefully did I see it.

Science fiction has had a lot of fun with this possibility. The film Simon was about a computer-generated movie star named Sim-on, that the director had to keep from the press because she existed only on the screen.

The Matrix, of course, took this concept to dramatic extremes, but the fact is that the computing power on the horizon is going to make it possible to create sims that will reach closer and closer approximations to what we recognize as reality – or perhaps, to such refined sophistication that we cannot distinguish a sim from a non-sim (assuming there actually is a difference). If there is no real difference, if in fact we are all sims in a computer program being run by someone with a fantastic sense of humor and irony, who might that someone be?

The really wonked-out speculators who support this theory suggest that humans actually destroyed most of human life on the planet a long time ago, though a few super-geeks survived who now live in a barren world somewhere and created a sim of the way life on earth used to be, and they are playing out this new sim to see if a different outcome is possible. In other words, we are but a creation of future generations. This would be a great shock to those who are so concerned about preserving a better life for those who will fill the shoes of the future.

For those who think I am spinning a wild tale here, I suggest viewing Through the Wormhole, a documentary that came out shortly after digger’s bone.

John Mattingly cultivates prose, among other things, and was most recently seen near Creede.