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Old 07-07-2012, 10:10 AM   #21
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Maybe if I had stuck with it I'd understand what all the excitement is about, but I doubt it.

I continue to be impressed by the forum members.
I only got the part where they said yeast, sugar and water make alcohol.

Heck, I even wonder about electrons. Do they really exist as they are described to us, or is that just a convenient way to explain the effects? How can we be sure? But I'm simple - the water pressure/flow analogies are good enough for me!

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Old 07-07-2012, 10:25 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by ERD50

Heck, I even wonder about electrons. Do they really exist as they are described to us, or is that just a convenient way to explain the effects?

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If there were no electrons, how would car batteries work?
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Old 07-07-2012, 10:31 AM   #23
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If there were no electrons, how would car batteries work?
Or anything electrical. I'm just saying that I don't really know enough to be able to say that 'electrons' are the one, true, accurate, actual explanation. Maybe there is some other explanation? Do physicists really care, or do they just need a model to work with?

As a parallel - I might say that my USB device 'talks' with my computer, and they 'negotiate' and 'handshake' about what power level is available. But they don't really 'talk' and 'handshake' - but as far as I'm concerned, that's good enough for me to understand what's going on, and to work with it.

Maybe, at a much, much higher level, this is all physicists do? I dunno.


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Old 07-07-2012, 10:40 AM   #24
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I think you're over analyzing it. I will take the physicists' word for the existence of electrons, plus what I learned in school/university.

Reminds me of an oral exam I had in biochemistry. Examiner began a line of questioning about mitochondrial function. I found this subject difficult to understand so I blurted out "oh, I don't like mitochondria!" His response: "to eat?" Of course the importance of mitochondria has greatly increased since those far off days as the science of genetics has exploded.

Just because we have difficulty understanding a concept doesn't mean it's not true.
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Old 07-07-2012, 11:10 AM   #25
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I think you're over analyzing it. I will take the physicists' word for the existence of electrons, plus what I learned in school/university. ...

Just because we have difficulty understanding a concept doesn't mean it's not true.
Oh, I don't really doubt them. There's is just a little bit of me that wants to question it, and wonder - is that really how it 'works', could there be an alternate explanation?

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Old 07-07-2012, 11:23 AM   #26
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It was certainly difficult to get an experimental confirmation of this theory. But nothing new was discovered here. Nothing new was added to the standard model of the universe. This massive and expensive effort did (probably) confirm the view held by 90+% of physicists. It's not a new theory. It's not a new discovery. It's an experimental confirmation. That's good, but the celebration seems excessive.
But how can you say that nothing was discovered here, when you say yourself that this discovery is 'proof' of a widely held theory? There have been several theories in our scientific past which turned out to be incorrect, once some scientific experiments indicated a different answer. There were other theories that tried to explain part of the Unified Theory, but until they could confirm which theory was correct, they couldn't rule the others out for sure.

And remember that this model is not just some esoteric, intangible way of ordering things like a foodchain pyramid, or Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - it's an equation that we can now use to understand why the universe does what it does -and predict what would happen if we did X or Y.

Before Maxwell developed the various equations governing how electric fields, etc. work, scientists were aware for centuries of the concept of static charge...but they had no idea what was going on. They rubbed a metal bar w/ a wool cloth, and that made their arm hair stand on end. That was the extent of their understanding.

But after an equation told them that a tiny particle, with a certain 'charge', did certain things, and you can predict how it would behave in different scenarios....then they could isolate this particle. And shoot a ton of them at a phosphorus screen, and create a Cathode Ray Tube. Or once they understood the equations of waves, they were able to modify the amplitude of certain waves, and create AM radio broadcasts.

All of this was possible because they understood the basic principles of just WHAT an electromagnetic field is and WHY those charged particles behave like they do. They didn't just take an electric wire, and randomly decide to aim it at a tv screen to see what would happen.

Likewise, once we establish the mathematical equations of WHY a particle has mass...it's 'similar' (to some degree) as to understanding WHY some tiny particles have a certain electric charge, and behave in certain ways.

It can be very difficult to comprehend, because mass is a physical property which we are all familiar with on a daily basis (myself among those who are TOO well familiar with it ). And we take too much for granted how most things we use on a daily basis have their existence directly based on the application of a fundamental principal of science - not from some random experiment someone pulled out of thin air.
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Old 07-07-2012, 11:41 AM   #27
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I don't understand the fuss. It was certainly difficult to get an experimental confirmation of this theory. But nothing new was discovered here. Nothing new was added to the standard model of the universe. This massive and expensive effort did (probably) confirm the view held by 90+% of physicists. It's not a new theory. It's not a new discovery. It's an experimental confirmation. That's good, but the celebration seems excessive.

It would be interesting to understand why it was worth all the effort and expense, compared to other things that could have been researched or built with tens of thousands of top notch researchers and many billions of dollars of equipment.
CERN's budget is about the same as a single university. This is the place where the World Wide Web was invented as a lunchtime project. And you may have noticed one or two handy applications of nuclear research and quantum theory (like, say, semiconductors, and satellites), which we wouldn't have unless we spent a lot of money on basic research.

The LHC is probably the most complex machine ever built by humans. On its own, before even being switched on, it will have redefined a number of engineering principles.

As JFK said, we choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. That's how we learn.
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Old 07-07-2012, 11:51 AM   #28
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...... They rubbed a metal bar w/ a wool cloth, and that made their arm hair stand on end. That was the extent of their understanding. ....
.

I do believe it was a rod with insulating properties, rather than metal...

Maybe my memory is wrong
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Old 07-07-2012, 12:05 PM   #29
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I like the idea of having lots of smart researchers working on projects. I understand if you put lots of smart people together things like arpanet or the world wide web or transistors or space blankets or other discoveries fall out. I even like the idea of doing something wonderful because it's hard. But I would have expected space travel, or medical research, or any one of thousands of other projects would be even more useful. Most of what we know about nutrition and education is still pretty poorly understood and probably a lot of it is wrong. What the LHC did was get experimental confirmation of a barely measurable effect that seems to confirm the Higgs Boson exists and the standard model is not disproved.

I guess you can argue that we did the work just in case the standard model would be disproved. THAT would have been a discovery. And perhaps that's the "result" we got, that there isn't a surprise lurking in particles at Higgs Boson detecting energy levels or below. But I still question the cost benefit ratio here.

I disagree that side benefits like the world wide web justify this project. Those kinds of benefits are good reasons for doing these kinds of projects - and I wholeheartedly support doing them - but they are not a result of doing this one particular project. Redirecting this much brainpower and money into other worthwhile projects could reasonably be expected to yield other (possibly different) unexpected side benefits. That cannot be used to justify this particular project, just to justify tackling hard problems as a general good.
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Old 07-07-2012, 01:26 PM   #30
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IMO the benefits of such projects do eventually appear, often indirectly, however at the moment the LHC seems awfully expensive. I would rather have seen the money and minds expended on a project with more immediate benefits and practical value, such as viable fusion power.
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Old 07-07-2012, 05:36 PM   #31
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Oh, contained fusion power would have been a terrific choice. Certainly just as hard. No reason to believe that the spin-off technologies would be any less useful. And a successful project would have immediate immense benefit with every reason to believe continuing benefits for a very long time.
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Old 07-07-2012, 06:07 PM   #32
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There are certain benefits to projects like the Large Hadron Collider, both to technology and to society.

Suggested reading: http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/...ience3-en.html
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Old 07-07-2012, 06:51 PM   #33
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I'm not seeing it. The article you cite lists 4 main benefits:

Contributions to culture, Spin-offs and stimulation of industry and Education are at best an even match between huge colliders looking for theoretical particles and huge machines attempting to confine fusion reactions. If anything I'd suggest that fusion might have a slight edge even in these three benefits. As for the possibility of enormously important discoveries of practical use, it seems very obvious to me that practical fusion would be a runaway favorite in terms of "enormous economic" impact over theoretically already known particles with a lifespan so short it's difficult to measure. Maybe there's some future technology 100 or more years away that can do something with these elusive particles, but it's hard to see why we should research the obviously impractical with very high funding, just because something might be useful eventually too far in the future to have any idea why. Reasonable funding, yes. Shotgun for lots of impractical problems that might turn out to be insightful, sure. But massive public funding for one project that we know cannot have practical use in the foreseeable future, I'd rather fund the many, many other projects. And the many, many other projects in aggregate are much more likely to contribute the cultural, spin-off and education advantages that CERN describes.

All the examples of electrons and transistors and myriad bell labs type projects are great research ideas, but not at all parallel to LHC because their scope and scale was not remotely comparable. If we are going to mount a colossal research effort, then we should pick one that has reasonable expectations that if successful it will be useful. LHC did not. Otherwise, we would be better off to fund zillions of smaller projects which in the aggregate will cover so much more that odds of finding some useful discoveries are much more in our favor.

LHC is a significant achievement. It's scientifically interesting and well done work. But it's astonishingly expensive for the results achieved. Am I the only person who thinks this is opportunity cost I wish had been spent elsewhere in science? It could even go to physicists working on other problems. I just don't see the cost/benefit of this line of thinking being worth the effort. I know I'm not king of the world, but when I rank the science projects I wish we were spending such valuable scientific brains and equipment on, LHC is pretty low on the list compared to many, many others.

Again, congratulations on a notable achievement. I'm not trying to rain on CERN's parade. Just thinking wistfully of other science I wish was getting more attention.
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Old 07-07-2012, 07:00 PM   #34
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IMO the benefits of such projects do eventually appear, often indirectly, however at the moment the LHC seems awfully expensive. I would rather have seen the money and minds expended on a project with more immediate benefits and practical value, such as viable fusion power.
The most optimistic estimate that I've seen of when fusion power might be available is 2050. If it were likely to be feasible in less than 5 or even 10 years, private money would be going into it.
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Old 07-07-2012, 07:03 PM   #35
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The most optimistic estimate that I've seen of when fusion power might be available is 2050. If it were likely to be feasible in less than 5 or even 10 years, private money would be going into it.
Fusion power is 30 years away. Always.
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Old 07-07-2012, 07:24 PM   #36
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Check out these 2 articles in the NYTimes today.

The first is about Higgs boson which reveals why it is so important to mankind: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/op...n-and-you.html

The second shows how scientific enterprise can be used to alleviate human pain and suffering. I think it is easy to understand the benefits of scientific research after reading this article.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/he...he-future.html

As a taxpayer, where would you have your money go? Into the research that led to first article? Or into the research that led to the second article?
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Old 07-08-2012, 08:22 AM   #37
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Hi Growing_older, You seem to be making many assumptions to get worked up about this project, and I'm not sure why.

You seem to assume that this finding will never yield a material benefit to human society. I'm not sure how we can possibly know what technology may be derived from this say 500 years in the future. How do you know that this confirmation of how subatomic particles behave won't lead to a breakthrough in nuclear fusion centuries from now?

You seem to assume that if a majority of scientists believe a theory to be true that it must be true, so all efforts spent testing the theory are wasted.

You seem to assume that if these brilliant physicists were not working on this project that they would suddenly morph into brilliant medical researchers.

You seem to assume if we didn't fund this research and instead boosted cancer research by a generous estimate of .1% that that .1% would be what pushed them over the top and led to a cure.

You seem to assume if the manhours spent on this project were not wasted here that they would have been used for more noble purposes and not by a bunch of now unemployed physicists and support workers looking at cute cate videos on youtube.

You seem to assume that if the funding for CERN were cut that the money would flow into something "better" for humanity and not say a small downpayment on a new football stadium.

I just don't agree with any of those. I mean, to meet your definition of not wasteful spending wouldn't every penny of every human need to go to basic needs or quickly applicable technological research of some kind?

Isn't there lower hanging fruit to rail against? I love football, but I know it is just entertainment, and the NFL has revenues 50X greater than all of CERN.
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Old 07-08-2012, 09:29 AM   #38
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Yes, I kind of like that idea. Maybe we can ask the NFL to hire more physicists.
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Old 07-08-2012, 09:55 AM   #39
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I'm sorry if I seem like I am railing against this. I love CERN. I think they do great work. I think a super-big super-expensive super-collider was very wasteful spending. But that doesn't detract from the cool result they obtained.

I do rail against the illogic that says since we see side benefits from science projects, that a particular science project is justified. Even the much ballyhooed world wide web was invented by CERN as a side effect of other projects, not LHC. Most of the detector technology came from earlier projects. LHC was mostly about big spending at big scale and the coordination of a really huge machine of tightly related parts.

I'm not trying to suggest we fire physicists and insist they retrain as medical researcher, or linebackers, or teachers. I'm trying to suggest that we not get all swept up in the congratulatory moment of a possible Higgs Bosun measurement and fail to consider risk/reward in future big spending science projects. I'd rather see big science than no science, but I think we would be wise to choose lots and lots of medium science, or small science if we could. Or at least choose the big science better.

For what it's worth, the articles LOL posted from the NY Times agree with my suggestions. Also, I'm not as pessimistic about fusion (or space travel or asteroid mining or many other choices). I think these could be achieved in our lifetimes. But, I'm just not seeing anyone advance a clear reason why LHC was worthwhile that's logical and wouldn't apply equally to many other alternative science projects we could have done instead.

Meanwhile, in case it wasn't clear. I love CERN. I love the work they do. I even love that they were able to make LHC work. Congratulations to the European consortium that backed this long range effort and is no doubt boosting science and scientific literacy in their countries as a result.
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Old 07-08-2012, 10:09 AM   #40
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I'm sorry if I seem like I am railing against this. I love CERN. I think they do great work. I think a super-big super-expensive super-collider was very wasteful spending. But that doesn't detract from the cool result they obtained.

I do rail against the illogic that says since we see side benefits from science projects, that a particular science project is justified. Even the much ballyhooed world wide web was invented by CERN as a side effect of other projects, not LHC. Most of the detector technology came from earlier projects. LHC was mostly about big spending at big scale and the coordination of a really huge machine of tightly related parts. ...
I also think the 'spin off' arguments are weak. Just because something was developed that way, doesn't mean that is the best, most efficient way to develop something, or that it would not have happened otherwise.

Chemotherapy was a 'spin-off' from WWI. Doctors noted that soldiers who survived a Mustard Gas attack had tumors go into remission. That led to the development of chemotherapy. So does that justify war and the use of chemical weapons?


Another viewpoint - seems to me that this LHC would not have been possible just 20 years ago. The technology did not exist (computer power, materials). So what if we just delayed this research for 10 or 20 years - it seems likely that we would have better technology to do it cheaper and better in the near future. We'd have better/cheaper computers, probably would have developed better materials and material processes for this. Sure, it takes massive power and some 'big iron' (copper?), no way around that, but I bet it can all be done more efficiently down the road.

Would validating this 10 or 20 years later fundamentally change the benefits? What if Columbus 'discovered' America in 1502 or 1512 instead - would history be much different?

Basic research is required, but this one seems questionable to push in the way it was done. I think we'd benefit more from more near-term investments.

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