Banking Favourites Physical World Physics

Ulster Bank and the Discovery of Anti-Money

For years I suspected  that my bank held a vast store of anti-money in a specially-constructed vault.  If anti-matter could annihilate matter then why might anti-money do the same thing to my hard-won coin?

The evidence?  Simple.  No matter how much I lodged, I was always broke.

Ah, never mind.  It was just a conversational throwaway, another means of blanching the matter, some trivial commonplace to keep the conversation flowing until now.

What’s now?  Oh, that’s easy.  Now is a world where the only people of integrity are scientists, working without regard to personal gain, and, in the process, unpicking the fundamental nature of our existence.

I was out this morning with my son, and as we drove along, the conversation naturally came round to CERN’s announcement of a five-sigma observation of a Higgs particle.  You can hardly have missed it since it’s been all over the news.

Did the Large Hadron Collider make a profit? he asked, insightfully.

Well, I replied, that depends what you mean by a profit.  If you’re thinking of an investment in the future of humanity, it made a huge profit.  But if your question is a monetary one, then no.  Without CERN, we wouldn’t have CAT scans.  We’d have no internet.  But yes, it’s true that no bondholders have been enriched by what it does.

Damn those ungreedy, trying-to-understand-how-things-work geeks, he spat.

Indeed, I agreed.  They knew how to deal with renegade philosophers back in ancient Greece.  Boiling oil.  Damn those thinking troublemakers.

We drove along in silence for a while, each processing his own piece of existence, until eventually I couldn’t resist it any more.

The Higgs boson, I said.


It’s not only necessary.

It is not, agreed Bullet.

It’s not only sufficient.

Very true, he muttered.  But what about the Manchester United player’s livestock?

You mean the Giggs Bison.

I do.  

What about the Hoggs Bosom?

Will we go any further with this?

Nah, we both nodded.  It speaks for itself.  We need the Higgs boson as much as the Higgs boson needs us.  It’s there because we are.  We’re there because it is.  But what of all these brainy folk in CERN?

Well, those folks are doing what they do because they want to find things out for themselves, and what’s the best way to find things out for yourself?  Is it to ask somebody else?  No.   The best way to find something out for yourself is to find it out for yourself.

That’s what science is all about.  You look at what’s in front of you and you do your best to explain it. But all the time, you accept that you might be wrong, and you’re prepared to change your mind if you find out something different, and that’s not just science, because science isn’t a thing.  Science isn’t a belief system, despite what believers would have you believe.  Science is simply clear thinking, applied to the physical world.

What’s the difference between science and faith?  Simple.  Science is prepared to change in light of new evidence.

What’s the difference between science and pseudoscience?  The answer is as above.

What do faith and pseudoscience have in common?  That’s easy.  Neither of them cares one jot about evidence.  Here’s some some shit we made up earlier.

Let’s get it plain.  Science is not a thing.  It’s not a belief.  It’s not a system.   If you’re being consistent and logical in your thinking then you’re being scientific.  Otherwise, you’re blundering around making shit up to suit yourself.

Back to those banks.  Are they being scientific?

Oh, yes, though you wouldn’t think it.  The people who run those outfits are as sharp as a razor with a blade honed on high-energy hadrons.  They might talk a great deal of unscientific waffle but the reason is perfectly plain: they don’t give a toss.  Take Ulster Bank.  The bank that likes to say Next Week.  They’ve been telling their customers for what, a fortnight now? that everything will be fixed by tomorrow.  I heard on the news today that their latest forecast is some time in the middle of next week.  That’s a full month they’ve been screwing up their loyal customers, without thev slightest hint of a sincere apology.

It baffled me why a well-run bank should suddenly turn rogue until I remembered that these guys had nothing to do with the banking collapse.  Northern.  Solid.  Royal Bank of Scotland.  Ulster.  NatWest.  Bowler hats.  Umbrellas.  Probity.   Honesty.

Very very solid.

How could that suddenly go as crazy as we’ve seen in the last while?  It couldn’t, obviously, so we’re condemned to cast around for an alternative answer.  Those Ulstermen would never rob you, but they would certainly build a Small Hadron Collider in a wee bank vault.  Small but not too small.

Not too small to annihilate my paltry weekly lodgements and generate in the process an enormous amount of energy, to be sold on.

No flies on these boys, let me tell you.

Now.  The Higgs particle has been identified, or at least one of them, and our understanding of the universe is confirmed, so let’s turn the attention of the world’s best intellects on the Royal Bank of Scotland debacle and see if the CERN scientists can figure it out.  I have no doubt that they’d see through the entire fuck-up in minutes, but let’s not bother.  Instead, let’s just fling the whole lot of the banking heads into jail.

What are the chances of that happening?  About as high as the chances of detecting a Higgs Boson in your bottle of Bollinger.