Monday, July 9, 2012

The Physics of a Perfect Wedding - Huffington Post

All the well-deserved excitement surrounding the Higgs Boson discovery last week has my head spinning, literally. Of course, that term, spinning, has ramifications not just for politics, but for physics, too, since physicists accept that three of the four forces of nature possess a property known as "spin."

But what all this quantum speculation really has me thinking about is what truly "matters," namely the bonds between two people in love. You could even call this post a "spin-off" of sorts, since it uses some of the same terms and conditions, such as force carriers, electromagnetism, gravity, super colliders, and energy.

In other words, my own "discovery" is that these elements are the same "particulars" that constitute a perfect wedding. I say this as a result of having just "officiated" my first wedding -- my nephew's on June 16 in Scottsdale, Arizona (Note: That's me with the gray hair standing between the wind-blown bride and groom).


So here's my quick spin on the physics necessary for a perfect wedding:

Electromagnetism - The Large Hardon Collider (LHC) is said to accelerate two beams of protons traveling in opposite directions until the beams reach the desired collision-energy level (sure sounds like a lot of the relationships I know!). People come together, often via outside forces -- in the case of my nephew, Michael, and his bride, Jessica, it was a mutual friend and a mutual affection for the Philadelphia Phillies. Then magnets (friends, families, romance) steer the beams (Michael and Jessica) through beam lines in anticipation of looming collisions (love, courtship, and marriage). According to physicists, these "collisions" take place in the "hearts" (their word) of two massive detectors -- one for each team (family) and each with a unique design. This way, if both teams see the same results (marriage) using independent approaches, both will have more confidence in the outcome! I could have said all that a little more warmly, and personally, but I think you get the picture.

Force Carriers - Bosons are so-called force carriers, associated with the four forces of nature, i.e., electromagnetism, the strong force (which binds particles in an atom's nucleus), the weak force (which governs radioactive decay), and gravity. Granted, just about everyone who is in love and wants to commit to spending the rest of his or her life together is a major force carrier. And while there are strong and weak forces at play in every relationship, keeping it together requires softer skills like patience and sacrifice and unselfishness. If you have that in spades, like Michael and Jessica do, then your union is likely to be stronger than any force.

Gravity - Physicists argue that a particle has yet to be found for gravity, although one (the graviton) has been proposed. Wedding-wise, it's all about the gravitational pull and the attraction (another physics term). If this didn't happen, nearly 100 of us wouldn't have all been standing outside in Arizona heat in the middle of June to watch two people in love tell us they were committed to staying together!

Super colliders - We wouldn't have the Higgs Boson discovery without them, but a good wedding needs this too. Michael and Jessica had this going for them on June 16 as well, including several adorable little ones (nieces, nephews and cousins) as part of the ceremony, attentive bridesmaids and groomsmen, supportive families, and an adoring audience. Of course, it also doesn't hurt to have an open bar, a great DJ, and a best man who wears his tuxedo without a shirt!

Energy - Our physicist friends tell us that the energy at the collision point eventually creates new particles which are analyzed and used to determine the nature of the particle they fleetingly created. Sure sounds a lot like procreation to me, but that's for another time! However, Mother Nature herself provided energy of a very different sort in Arizona that day. Just as we were preparing to begin the celebration, a "haboob" (desert storm) paid a surprise visit and, in doing so, shielded the happy couple, yours truly, the wedding party, and the audience from the scorching Arizona sun!

Since this was the first (and only) wedding ceremony I've been fortunate enough to officiate -- and I'm by no means a physicist -- you should probably take what I'm saying with a grain or two of NaCl (that's salt).

But having just been through the wedding ceremony process from start to finish, I have happily discovered it is unremitting love that is indeed the strongest, and best, force in the universe. Just ask Michael and Jessica.

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