LHC goes (almost) live!


And, not unsurprisingly, the world stubbornly failed to come to an end.  Not that – even if the scientifically illiterate doomsayers were right – the world could have come to an end today: they’re only firing protons one way around the ring, which means no actual collisions yet.  But it’s still cool – it means it looks like it’s going to work.

This is a fantastic day for particle physicists, and I can’t wait to see what new information will be coming out of this thing in the years ahead. Cosmic Variance has an excellent list of what may or may not be found by the LHC. My personal favorite on that list is, “Something that Has Never Been Predicted”.  Sure, if they find Higgs – which is what everyone seems to be talking about – then it confirms one field of physicts, but how much more exciting if they don’t!

One unfortunate effect of this, of course, is the nut-jobs.  Not just the doomsayers, but the naysayers. Such as the one highlighted on the BBC’s own report, from their “Have Your Say” section:

I think it is disgraceful that huge sums of cash have been spent on this project

Pfft. Twaddle.  Far from being “disgraceful”, this is finally a step in the right direction: science, especially in the UK, is woefully under-funded.  Nowhere near enough money is spent on science – you just have to look at the fate that nearly befell Jodrell Bank to see that!  And what does that science spending bring? Technology!

Too many times, a science project is criticized, because it’s money that could have been spent on feeding the poor, without understanding that it is precisely science that provides benefits to the poorest regions of the world.  How do you record about famine in a remote part of the world? Satellite technology, digital video technology, broadcasting technology. All Science.  How do you co-ordinate a world-wide response to a natural disaster? Aviation technology, GPS technology, communications technology – including the WWW developed at CERN. All Science.  How do you type a message to a BBC website complaining about money spent on a science project being “disgraceful”? By using a computer: a device that functions as well and as cheaply as it does thanks to the discovery and improvement of semi-conductor technology, which required an understanding of Quantum Mechanics: SCIENCE.  Does this woman think her computer technology just dropped out of the sky?

Science is cool: it comes up with really weird results (seriously: just think about what’s physically going on in that Intel Core 2 processor – that’s weird!), but it changes our understanding of the universe, and enables us to control our environment in ways we wouldn’t have foreseen before experimentation. Yes, it costs money, but it’s worth every damned penny, and people who don’t see that should just pack up their damned computer, and stop spouting nonsense on the networks science created.


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