Thursday, September 11, 2008

Learnin' How t'Crawl - or - LHC

Just a quick shout out tonight; mostly to keep my 'stats' up but I do get the urge every couple of days... problem is, it takes me much longer to actually get to it. I have a personal assistant that keeps my schedule and he sometimes forgets to schedule in my posting sessions. He's fired.

There was a radio program on today which covered the topic of the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC.

I didn't catch the full hour but I tuned in with about 10 minutes remaining. Luckily, it's archived and available to listen to another time. However, within the small bit that I did hear tonight, a caller's comment/question struck me.

To be fair, I don't know too many details about the LHC or what it's supposed to accomplish. As surprising as it may seem, I'm not a world-reknowned physicist.

What I gather about the project is there are scientists from about 85 countries involved. The main objective is to fire atoms, or some other 'particles', from each end of a 17 mile tunnel directly at each other in an attempt to re-create the suspected action which created the 'Big Bang'.

Feel free to correct me - but don't slag me off for the obvious lack of detail. As I mentioned... you know, the world-reknowned physicist thing. If you want to know more about 'the hell' I'm rambling about, check out the link referenced above.

From the LHC website :

"The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is being built in a circular tunnel 27 km in circumference. The tunnel is buried around 50 to 175 m. underground. It straddles the Swiss and French borders on the outskirts of Geneva."

For those uninitiated in the metric system, that's huge.

What piqued my interest and/or cynicism about the caller's question was the lack of vision outside his own realm of self it contained.

Paraphrased, his question was something like, "With all the issues going on regarding the world and gas prices today, why are scientists spending time and money on this project?" In other words, what is it that I'm supposed to gain from this research in my day-to-day life?

Simple answer? Nothing, bud. Sorry to disappoint you. Yeah, that's right. The entire world isn't really concerned about you, personally.

Harsh? Not really. It's the necessity of science.

Projects like this aren't meant to solve the problems of today. They have their own immediate intentions, of which the general public is typically unaware. However, in five, ten, maybe twenty year's time - or more - they tend to render solutions for the problems - or advancements - of tomorrow.

I'm sure when Alexander Graham Bell was working on what would become the modern telephone there were plenty of current-day issues that needed addressing.

Many other everyday conveniences we take for granted have roots in a long and, most times, expensive history. At the time when that expense is greatest, it's difficult for the average citizen to rationalize its worth. There's always going to be something more 'real' to deal with. However, in most cases, those efforts usually pay off and are well worth the wait.

The cost of the research that eventually delivers that advancement of civilization, whether it serves our generation or the next, becomes a bargain once that breakthrough insinuates itself into the mainstream society. In essence, that advancement becomes priceless.

How much would you pay for something today that you know would eventually become beyond pricing?

Technically, nothing. I know - because, you'd never get your money back if it didn't have a price.

But! In the less literal 'priceless' sense? It seems that any price, at the time, would be agreeable.

Sure there are going to be projects that fail and never make it past the expensive development stage. But that price is well worth it, as that attempt will never be tried again... which allows future researchers an advantage - of knowing where not to go.

Scientific research is one of the mystical professions of our time. The average person knows nothing about it and is constantly amazed at its results.

I'm not saying "Do not question science." On the contrary. I'm saying, "Please! Question science." So we may all understand its significance and, one day, enjoy its benefits.

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