“A Hole in Texas”


Which of these is not like the others?

‘MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR”

“THE CAINE MUTINY”

“A HOLE IN TEXAS”

‘THE WINDS OF WAR’

Answer:  None of the above

OK, it was a trick question worthy of the author of the blog Fight Against Stupidity and Bureaucracy.   All of the books named above were written by Herman Wouk, of course.   How many of you knew he wrote “A Hole in Texas?”

On July 4, 2012 physicists worldwide celebrated when  CERN, headquartered in Geneva, announced they had discovered a new subatomic particle that did indeed look like the Higgs bozan.  Named after Peter Higgs, who along with other physicists discovered what was called  Higgs field in 1964.  Higgs, 93, was in Geneva for the announcement and stated that  he never thought his theory would be proven in his lifetime.  It was also called the God particle and seems to be thought to be the glue that holds everything together.  My understanding is that they smashing atoms deep underground in a circular tunnel deep underground on the Franco-Swiss border.  I think I am digging myself into a non-scientific hole so I had better stop digging and get back to my main topic.

 All of this talk of super-colliders and physicists  reminded me of a book I read a few years ago.   I found it while I was randomly searching the shelves and stacks of books at Half-Price Books.  While I have read manyl of  Herman Wouk’s popular books, I had never even heard of this one, “A Hole in Texas,” and promptly added it to my purchases after checking the blurbs on the back cover to make sure it was by THE Herman Wouk.

Photo from his website

http://www.hermanwouk.net/

Published in 2004, it is a satirical novel revolving around the real-life  Superconducting  Supercollider (SSC), a particle accelerator, that was being built in Waxahachie, Texas from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.  Several states had vied for the project, but Texas politics and  bravado won the prize.  America had put the first man on the moon; America would prove the existence of the Higgs boson.  In 1991 work began in Waxahachie, a small town about forty miles south of Dallas.  The town and surrounding area experienced a boom similar to an oil boom with an influx of scientists, engineers and construction workers and jobs for the locals.  The tunnel would be constructed 200 feet underground deep in the bedrock.

President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush both had supported it.  However, with estimated costs soaring and its scientific value questioned, Congress and President Clinton cancelled the project in 1993 even though $2 billion had already been spent and over fourteen miles of tunnel had been bored.   A hole in Texas indeed!

Abandoned Buildings at SSC site -Photo from Wikipedia

Back to the book.  Confident with his years of successful writing, Wouk seemed unafraid to have a little fun in his golden years.  The plot centers around the realities of the project in Waxahachie, the politics of Washington, scandal and Hollywood. Guy Carpenter, an ordinary scientist, gets caught up in something he never could have imagined.  One reviewer describes it this way, “…occasionally corny but also playful, thoughtful and passionate.”  Wouk tries to get serious and provide the reader with light scientific facts but in reality he doesn’t “…know what the Sam Hill a boson is.”  I recommend it as a look at the lighter side of science, politics and the media.

After the abandonment by the United States of the quest for the Higgs boson, CERN went on to build their own particle accelerator, the Large Hadron collider in Europe.  And the rest is history.

It may be twenty years too late, but what do you think?  Should the United States have abandoned its hole in Texas?

Related articles:
Physicists Find Particle
Herman Wouk to Publish New Book
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