tisdag, mars 30, 2010

CERN and the LHC research programme

Today marks a special day in the history of the CERN laboratory near Geneva.
It's the first attempt for collision at 7 TeV, in order to 'recreate' the Big Bang, as this event has been described.

First of all we remember the last attempt in 2009, when some scientists even said that there were a risk for creating a 'black hole', not controllable.
Even if this was exaggerated - something we as laymens don't know - this is a high-risk project.
The scientists working at CERN reassure us that there are no major risks at all but again scientists have always said this when describing there different research projects and their predictions concerning safety or other negative aspects related to their scientific work, are seldom correct.

We do have to remember though that scientists are often driven by the same fanatic instincts as religious or political fundamentalists.
They aim at the Nobel Prize, fame or money or all of these and who is supervising their work?
In this case as in so many others, the citizens of the world should have the possibility to access information more easily concerning the different processes, their risks and advantages.
Most scientists - even more so concerning military research - would say that this is impossible as the information could fall into the hands of people who would use it for their own purposes, setting aside laws and regulations.
They would also say that laymens doesn't understand their scientific work and therefore this information is superfluous.
This last possible remark, concerning laymens inability to understand, is of course correct to some extent but this should only lead scientists to become more eager in explaining and being pedagogical - before going on with their reserach.
Not least telling the truth concerning the magnitude of the risks.

As this is seldom the case, surveillance of these projects should be hightened.
Governments should have armed forces, exterior experts, judicial expertice and members of organizations opposing the actual research, placed at - in this case - CERN in order to ensure that the 'scientifical risk-taking' is minimized when manipulating forces as strong as this.
Most people would say that this is to exaggerate but we have to keep in mind that all kinds of research affects us, sometimes in a positive way but very often negatively.
This insight in combination with the above mentioned about the 'scientifical fundamentalism', should lead us to straighten up the supervision of scientists and their work.

The particle accelerator - what is it good for?
Well first of all we have heard - as I wrote above - that this apparatus could lead to the solution of questions concerning how the Universe was created and with all due respect, we have more urgent questions to solve than that.
This is a playground for less grown up boys and girls, playing around with toys costing billions of US dollars!
Secondly one have put forward the possibility for a solution to our energy problems, creating energy much more 'clean' and less dangerous than the 'traditional' nuclear energy we use right now.
I don't know if this is correct or not but as always this arguments stems more from the wish to make this huge experiment, this huge toy, more acceptable in the eyes of the public.

CERN has a budget (according to some figures) of 9 billion dollars(!) and this particular project is estimated to cost 4,4 billion US dollars(!).
It's the most expensive experiment in the history of man and even if one find an alternative source of energy, this will not be put into use for long and still one have to ask oneself if these huge amounts of money couldn't be used in a better way.

Personally I do think so, regarding the situation in the world: Poverty, starvation (there are more poverty at this point in history than ever according to many figures); war, injustice, totalitarian regimes, environmental crisis etc etc.

Someone would perhaps say that those questions should not be related to the scientific research at CERN, as the one doesn't exclude the other.
However, when discussing poverty and starvation in the world, political leaders and citizens in wealthier nations often state that it's impossible or almost impossible to solve this problem as it would affect the world economy extremely negative.
When it comes to advanced toys for 'big boys and girls', one can always find money!

I would like to end this with a couple of quotes from Albert Einstein:

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

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