Friday, 6 July 2012

The Higgs boson- waste of effort and money or the best of blue sky research?

What do you think of the quest for, and the recent discovery of the 'God particle' at CERN's £4 billion underground proton smasher, which has tied up the most brilliant minds in science (apart from MEI conference authors of course!)?

Is it a vast waste of time and money, or is it the very best of blue sky research, and what science is all about?  What we should not forget is that at about the same time a century ago, the best minds in science were applying their intellect to the new science of quantum physics, and the strange behaviour of atoms and electrons. Many scientists, including Albert Einstein, were disparaging, feeling that it had no practical significance, but now our modern world is dependent on it.  Not that we truly understand what it is all about- a bit like the Higgs boson really, and those other esoteric fields of research, such as string theory.

Let's have your thoughts.

11 comments:

  1. mphande melekio7 July 2012 at 09:16

    Science and the best understanding of it enhance the improvements in life. I hope this will not crush the faith in the supernatural being- God. The costs may appear huge now but could be the best of things for the humans.

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  2. Yes to all you said about the benefits and possible upside.

    However, it would certainly be interesting to take a high level look at the total funding of cutting edge physics research (cost) vs. accrued benefits! It would be necessary to make some assumptions, etc. but would be some fun and provide basis for cutting commentary one way or the other.

    Of course, it could also reveal aspects of another tragedy of the commons.
    Posted on Minerals Engineers group by Robert Seitz, USA

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  3. If the earth was flat and if the universe was created in 4004BC the practice of mineral engineering would be pretty much the same. The metallogenic processes which have brought an orebody into existence don't matter very much to its behaviour in the float plant, all that matters to a metallurgist is the properties of the orebody as it is today.

    However that is not to say that our lives are not in some way enriched by our more esoteric scientific knowledge. This knowledge may not affect us as metallurgists (although if you are building a big aluminium smelter you do need to account for the curvature of the earth in your potline design) but without it we wouldn't really be Homo sapiens. Given enough time H. habilis could have mastered engineering from pure empiricism. Only H. sapiens really cares about knowledge for its own sake.

    When I was young there was an invention called a laser. It was derided by many scientists and engineers as being a discovery with no practical use. Forty years on and our lifestyle is almost totally dependent upon the "useless" laser. This is the thing about pure knowledge - the uses to which it may be put are yet to be found!

    Posted on Minerals Engineers group by John Rayner, Australia

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    1. I agree John, and there are often other benefits which are not so obvious, and impossible to quantify economically. The discovery of the Higgs bosun has generated much interest in science and may encourage more young people to persue a scientific career, even if they haven't a clue what the HB is! I remember in the early 60's that everyone wanted to be a chemical engineer, because of a popular TV programme, The Troubleshooters, involving the oil industry. It was also difficult at that time to gain a place in a veterinary college due to the TV series 'All Creatures Great and Small'. Students with the right qualifications had to make do with medical school!

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  4. Well I have been in University environments to know they try to popularise approaches by using buzz-words. Hence I am highly skeptical of the phrase/word 'god-particle'. I am truly not in a position to make any judgement on the high-level physics associated with the theory; and obviously there is a balancing act between scientific advance and focusing on social issues (hence Martin Luther King was a strong adversary of the NASA space program).

    It would be great if research approaches did not have to resort to using buzz words in order to get funding.
    Posted by Stephen Gay, Australia, in Minerals Engineers group

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    1. I think you may be doing them an injustice Stephen. I am pretty sure that the term 'God particle' is a media innovation. I don't think CERN needs to resort to such tactics to obtain funding.

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  5. Quite correct Barry. In fact, according to Higgs, the name "God Particle" is actually a politeness-corrupted version of "Goddam Particle"—so called because the goddam particle was so difficult to find.
    David Hatton, Canada. Posted on Minerals Engineers group

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    1. Talking of terminology, it is a shame that little recognition has been given to the person who 'boson' is associated with. The name derives from the Indian scientist Satyenda Nath Bose, who worked with Einstein in the 1920s on a theory known as the Bose-Einstein condensate, an integral part of the Higgs theory developed in the 1960s.

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    2. Have to agree with Stephens comment on the balancing act -- how much esoteric knowledge can we afford? In these times with economies facing ballooning budget deficits, how much repetitive scientific research can be afforded?

      As for attracting more into fields of science and technology. This sounds a worthwhile endeavor. Over the weekend, I saw summary comments from a 'recent' survey of employment for those in the hard sciences and one of the the conclusion was that there was severe underemployment. Has anyone else seen these sort of results? Any comments? I'll have to get the full study.
      Posted by Robert Seitz, USA on Minerals Engineers Group

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  6. Retraction The intensity that varies across a laser beam can be used to push objects sideways, a mechanism where light movement can be controlled using two opposing light beams could be used to vary the invisible cloaking by varying the positive refractive index towards negative which will be a feedback system which acts as genetic hologram mirror says Sankaravelayudhan Nandakumar which become a possible Astrogenetic applications, a mechanism where light movement can be controlled using two opposing light beams — though technically, this differs from the idea behind a tractor beam. now studied the properties of lasers with a particular type of distribution of light intensity across the beam, or so-called Bessel beams forming slippery quantum mechanical entanglement and of “decoherence”, in which the quantum nature of a particle slowly slips away through its interactions with other matter. Based on pioneering work by Albert Einstein and Max Planck more than a hundred years ago, it is known that light carries momentum that pushes objects away. In addition, the intensity that varies across a laser beam can be used to push objects sideways, and for example can be used to move cells in biotechnology applications.
    A typical Astrogenetic application is formation of Rahu and Kethu by lunar wave solar wave opposition to eject pie phased ejections.

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  7. Congratulations to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert for award of Nobel Prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs Boson at CERN in 2012

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