Thursday, September 11, 2008

Is there another purpose to the LHC?

The governments of 20 European countries, plus the U.S., invest $8 billion to reproduce conditions just after the Big Bang… But “Big Bang” is a theory, one of many hypotheses of how the universe came to be. The fact that it is the most popular and best supported theory doesn’t prove it in any way. 

The problem with theories is that we’re never sure of the results of their experimental checking. In his very optimistic interview to the Telepgraph, Prof. Stephen Hawking, of the University of Cambridge, says: “Whatever the LHS finds or fails to find, the results will tell us a lot about the structure of the universe”. Thus, the scientists know that the experiment can fail. It happens in science. But does it happen in politics? In other words, should we all understand that governments of 21 countries paid $8 billion without being sure they didn’t throw such a huge sum away? 

Before trying to answer these rather rhetorical questions, let’s take a look at the history of the project. The LHS in Geneva is not the first, but the second attempt. In the 1980s and early 1990s, 30 kilometers of tunnel was dug in Waxahachie, Texas, south of Dallas, to house the Superconducting Supercollider—a machine that was to be much like the LHC, but bigger and more expensive. President Ronald Reagan called the project a “doorway to a new world” and agreed to foot the $8.4 billion price tag. In 1993, with $2 billion spent and cost estimates swelling to $11 billion, the project came to an abrupt end: the Congress pulled the plug. Full story...

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