Cosmic Justice

According to the Detroit News, a 19-year old black woman, Renisha McBride, had a car accident in the predominantly white suburb of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, at around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Her cell phone battery was dead, so she began looking for help. After knocking on the door or ringing the bell at a house on Outer Drive, she was shot in the head and killed. The Dearborn Heights police department found her body on the front porch. They know who killed her but haven’t released the person’s name.

Michigan is one of the states that now has a “Stand Your Ground” law. Michigan’s law says that a person has the right to use deadly force against another person if he or she “reasonably” believes such force is necessary to protect himself, herself or someone else from imminent death, great bodily harm or sexual assault. Given the facts reported so far, asking the woman ringing your door bell at 2:30 a.m. what she wanted or calling 911 would have been more reasonable than putting a bullet through her head. The incident is now in the hands of the Wayne County prosecutor.

In news that could be related, physicists have discovered that the Higgs field, what the New York Times calls “an invisible ocean of energy that permeates space, confers mass on elementary particles and gives elementary forces their distinct features and strengths” might undergo a phase transition resulting from a random quantum-level fluctuation. This phase transition would make the Higgs field much denser than it is now. That change would destroy everything in the universe more complex than hydrogen, the simplest element there is. 

In fact, a random fluctuation of this kind might have already occurred, meaning that the resulting phase transition (in effect, a wave of destruction traveling at the speed of light) might be heading for us right now. We won’t know if it’s coming or notice if it arrives: “the idea is that the Higgs field could someday twitch and drop to a lower energy state, like water freezing into ice, thereby obliterating the workings of reality as we know it”.

It would be as if Someone finally got fed up and turned off the cosmic switch that controls everything around us, including Dearborn Heights, Michigan.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view of cosmic justice, it is very, very unlikely that the Higgs field will change any time soon. Nevertheless, it could happen, especially if Someone gets really fed up.

Update:  Apparently, it was a man who killed Renisha McBride. He did it with a shotgun and says it was an accident. He also says he thought she was an intruder (the kind who knocks on the front door or rings the bell?).  

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The death of Renisha McBride:  http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20131105/METRO01

The Higgs field: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/05/science/finding-the-higgs-leads-to-more-puzzles

A nice, 14-minute video that explains how very unlikely it is that the lights will go out while we’re still around: http://www.ted.com/talks/why_our_universe_might_exist_on_a_knife_edge

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