Fine Structure

Putting Money Where Your Discovery Is

The LA Times has a little piece on the LHC and what it might find written by Steve Giddings of UCSB. It's a fascinating if brief read, bringing together all the LHC words we hear about... Higgs, supersymmetry, black holes, etc. I think the best part is this sentence, quoted below:

But modern society would be unrecognizable without discoveries in fundamental physics. Radio and TV, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, PCs, iPhones, the GPS system, the Web and beyond -- much that we take for granted would not exist without this type of physics research and was not predicted when the first discoveries were made.

Okay, radio and TV have been around for a while. And X-rays, CT scans and MRIs aren't a daily reality for most of us. But PCs, cell phones, GPS and the internet? All brought to you by science. It's a really positive way to view science, I think, especially when explaining why we fund science publicly to those who aren't involved in any way.

Steve goes far enough to say that even if the LHC only discovers what we've predicted (or doesn't), we're going to see real-world technology as a result that we can't even imagine currently. While I support doing science just for understanding how our world works, many people will surely argue that this is why we do science. So the question is do we get more real world results from the $10 Billion LHC than we get from the $10,000 or even $100,000 experiment? Calculating the money spent on a particular project, say the research for discovering radio, is a very complicated task and not one that I'd particularly want to spend time on. But it is an interesting thought...

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-giddings5-2010jan05,0,5685598.story ]