There is no such thing in the world as luck. There never was a man who could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold in the street today, and another tomorrow, and so on, day after day. He may do so once in his life; but so far as mere luck is concerned, he is as liable to lose it as to find it. — P. T. Barnum
Imagine you’re a gold prospector in the late 1800s…
- You’re up to your knees in freezing muddy river water
- You’re starving
- Some people seem to be making finds, but not you
- You’ve left your wife and kids hundreds of miles away in a time when it takes 6 months to return to them to seek a fortune to save them from poverty
- You want to return a hero.
One night in the bar as you knock down a bourbon to beat the stress, someone says, “Guess what? Michael Faraday just proved electricity.”
Somehow, I don’t think you’d be buying that guy a drink.
How could you possibly know that — 100 years from now — your descendants would be sitting around a TV or playing on their devices, communicating globally instantly via something called ‘wi-fi?’
Yet that’s the same sort of scenario we find ourselves in today.
Can you imagine your life today without electricity?
When the electron was discovered in 1897, its usefulness was unimaginable.
No one understood its relevance or potential impact on human life, not even Michael Faraday, the scientist who made the discovery.
Faraday was not particularly well educated. Growing up in a religious sect with a father who was mostly ill, his family was on the poverty line. In his memoirs, he wrote about having to live on one loaf a week.
At an early age, he began to earn money by delivering newspapers for a book dealer and bookbinder. When he turned 14, he began an apprenticeship.
Yet, unlike the other apprentices, Faraday took the opportunity to read some of the books brought in for rebinding. An article on electricity in the 3rd edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica particularly fascinated him.
That’s all it takes… a fascination… a spark of a winning idea
Using old bottles and lumber, Faraday made a crude electrostatic generator and did simple experiments. Despite no formal education, he spent years proving himself to be one of the foremost chemistry experts in the world.
But his fascination remained electricity.
So in 1820, when Hans Christian Orsted announced the discovery that the flow of an electric current through a wire produced a magnetic field around the wire, Faraday was the first to understand what it implied. Our modern life is the result of this simple discussion across a desk.
Faraday’s ingenuity and laboratory skill enabled him to construct an apparatus that confirmed his conclusion. This device, which transformed electrical energy into mechanical energy, was the first electric motor.
A seemingly simple story, but Faraday’s progress from that discovery and understanding to being accepted by the scientific establishment is all too typical: It is a well-worn path of ridicule, abuse, public humiliation.
The unity of the forces of nature (the second time around)
Since the inception of his scientific work, Faraday had believed in what he called ‘the unity of the forces of nature.’
By this he meant that all the forces of nature were but manifestations of a single universal force and ought, therefore, to be convertible into one another.
Remember our gold prospector at the beginning of this article? When Faraday first got interested in electron force, the Klondike gold rush was just starting as the first successful prospectors arrived in Seattle.
To an earth 4.63 billion years old, 100 years is a yawn — but look where that mere 100 years has taken us.
The next 100
2013 is destined to go down in history like the discovery of the electron and for a similar reason…
It was the year the existence of the Higgs Boson was confirmed.
But hardly anyone noticed.
Apparently, people were too busy on their devices (thanks, Faraday). Most people missed it, focused instead on the rising stock market or the Cyprus bailout.
Fifteen years ago, Leon Lederman wrote in his book The God Particle:
“This boson is so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our final understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive, that I have given it a nickname: the God Particle. Why God Particle? Two reasons. One, the publisher wouldn’t let us call it the God Damn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing. And two, there is a connection, of sorts, to another book, a much older one called the bible…”
So what does this mean?
It means that all the forces of nature are but manifestations of a single universal force and ought, therefore, to be convertible into one another.
Just as the discovery of the electron has led to my ability to type this article on a thing called a computer, just over 100 years later so the discovery of the Higgs Boson could lead to mind-blowing technology like beaming from place to place or renewable free energy.
This new revelation of Higgs Boson proves that everything and everyone is in fact connected by the same field, similar to how all fish are connected by the water in which they swim.
It boggles my mind what technologies are to come from this.
But that’s precisely the challenge of the times.
Who will you be?
The question is: Will you be like the gold prospector in the bar who was oblivious to where the future was headed…
Or will you use this new discovery to spark your future and possibly make your own fortune?
The message is clear — there’s never been a better time to reinvent yourself.
A version of this article is also published on medium.com