Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Shift in the Center of the Science Universe

CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) has been getting considerable play in the European press, and other enlightened places around the globe. With the recent conclusion of tests on its new Large Hadron Collider, the facility is poised to begin tests that may rock the world of physics.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionize our understanding, from the minuscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.
Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyze the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.
This new particle accelerator promises to bring new insights into the formation of the universe, unless you subscribe to Intelligent Design, which holds that God wagged his forefinger and everything was just “created.”
Up until the 1990s, the United States was in the forefront of science in this field. Then, apparently, we decided that this whole field was just too expensive and we had other priorities. As a result, the world of physics transferred to Europe. It is of course, our loss, although we clearly have other things to do, such as stamp out the fires being created daily by the Neo-Cons. To be fair, it probably was not Shrub who dumped the field. After all, he can’t even pronounce nuclear; how could he possibly understand its importance? But it is too bad, nonetheless. It is one more sign that we are losing our edge in science.
I keep hoping for some sign of a turnaround. Clearly a McCain-Palin Administration won’t provide one. They want to return us to the dark ages. I remain cautiously optimistic: enlightenment is possible, folks. Just grab the gold ring as the carousel turns. Eight years of the stupid people is enough, thank you. Let’s try some smart people for a change.
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