Tonto & Higgs

Smithsonian offers a balanced review of The Lone Ranger by a descendant of the Pawnee:

Johnny Depp’s Tonto Isn’t Offensive, Just Weird, Says the Director of the American Indian Museum

Mr. Depp’s Tonto is understood by all—especially the Comanches in the movie—to be a very strange man. We learn from the plot that his eccentricity is actually a mostly good-natured madness arising from a childhood trauma. So Tonto’s weird dead-bird headdress, which has generated much discussion among Indian cultural critics, is not presented as traditional Indian dress. Rather, it is a manifestation of Tonto’s madness.

There is also a dark side to his madness. He believes his destiny is to hunt and kill men like bad-guy Butch Cavendish. Tonto believes the villain is a supernaturally evil creature that can only be destroyed by a silver bullet. Unfortunately, in what seems to be a failed attempt at authenticity, he refers to Cavendish as a “wendigo.” That is a mythological creature in a number of northern woodlands cultures, but not a part of Comanche culture.

I read elsewhere that the movie flopped financially, so maybe it will show up on Netflix.

Stretching our evolution-restricted brains, Smithsonian has another article on the conception of and effort to find more objective knowledge of the cosmos. In this case, the Higgs Boson:

Nearly a half-century ago, Peter Higgs and a handful of other physicists were trying to understand the origin of a basic physical feature: mass. You can think of mass as an object’s heft or, a little more precisely, as the resistance it offers to having its motion changed. Push on a freight train (or a feather) to increase its speed, and the resistance you feel reflects its mass. At a microscopic level, the freight train’s mass comes from its constituent molecules and atoms, which are themselves built from fundamental particles, electrons and quarks. But where do the masses of these and other fundamental particles come from?

When physicists in the 1960s modeled the behavior of these particles using equations rooted in quantum physics, they encountered a puzzle. If they imagined that the particles were all massless, then each term in the equations clicked into a perfectly symmetric pattern, like the tips of a perfect snowflake. And this symmetry was not just mathematically elegant. It explained patterns evident in the experimental data. But—and here’s the puzzle—physicists knew that the particles did have mass, and when they modified the equations to account for this fact, the mathematical harmony was spoiled. The equations became complex and unwieldy and, worse still, inconsistent.


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