If you go to the website of The New York Times today, you will see, plastered across the homepage in 19,000-point type a story about the death of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. If you continue onto the "Most Popular" tab, you will find, topping the list, an epic story of the search for the long-elusive Higgs Boson, the "God particle," the fundamental building block of all things thing-y. And as I browsed through these articles, I wrestled with a profound philosophical question: Do I care? Does anybody?
I mean, I suppose Hugo Chavez cares about his own death--or he would if he were alive. I guess it matters to Venezuela. I feel I SHOULD care about the Higgs boson if, as I understand, I'm made of them. . . or surrounded by them. . . or in danger of being swallowed by them--OK, I admit I don't get it. It's just been one of those days that makes me question the basic value of the news.
We're constantly hearing about the imminent death of print journalism. I resist this bleak diagnosis. But today, as I play the responsible citizen, performing my civic duty of making myself as well-informed as possible on all matters--and in the case of the Higgs, all FORMS of matter--I question how important any of it is. I think I need a reporter to step out of the frame and explaiin to me why this is important to me. Otherwise, I'm liable to throw up my hands one day and become one of those people who does nothing on the internet by seek out new and cuter cat videos. Those are made of bosons, too, right?