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Old 07-08-2012, 11:08 AM   #41
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I am glad that Higgs lived to see his theory proven. That is rare among theoretical physicists.
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Old 07-08-2012, 03:27 PM   #42
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DS is currently an intern at CERN. He reports that not much work got done on Wednesday.
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Old 07-08-2012, 03:41 PM   #43
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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.

-ERD50
I don't know. If doing this research now instead of 20 years from now results in some big breakthrough in 40 years instead of 50 years, the compound effect of 10 years of say more efficient energy source (or battery storage or transmission lines...) could more than make up for doing it now at higher cost vs in the future. It is pretty much impossible to predict these things.

I also think it is better to have these physicist working on basic research than the two most likely alternative employment for many of these guys (and a few gals). The first one being defense work developing next generation neutron bombs, suit case bombs etc. Or even more likely working for financial service developing weapons of mass financial destruction CDO squared, synthetic CDOs and other similar dangerous financial products
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Old 07-08-2012, 04:06 PM   #44
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DS is currently an intern at CERN. He reports that not much work got done on Wednesday.
That is so cool! You must be so proud of him. So just exactly how do scientists party out?
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Old 07-08-2012, 04:27 PM   #45
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I don't know. If doing this research now instead of 20 years from now results in some big breakthrough in 40 years instead of 50 years, the compound effect of 10 years of say more efficient energy source (or battery storage or transmission lines...) could more than make up for doing it now at higher cost vs in the future. It is pretty much impossible to predict these things. ...
True, no way to predict it. But looking at it from an 'opportunity cost' viewpoint - what about the value of more near-term projects that didn't come to light because these guys were working on looking for the existence of this particle?

Bill Gates was talking up that Travelling Wave reactor, there are plans for pebble bed reactors - these all sound like they have a lot of promise, but need significant research and smarts applied to make them real. Ocean exploration? I just can't help but think there are plenty of things for them to work on that would provide a better ROI, and create spin-offs in the process.

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Old 07-08-2012, 05:05 PM   #46
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That is so cool! You must be so proud of him. So just exactly how do scientists party out?
He's a science communicator, not a pure scientist, so in theory his job is to help the scientists be understood, although for now he's doing fundraising - the budget for all the core stuff comes from government science budgets, but they're trying to do a lot more outreach and technology transfer, and that needs money to get started. So he's working on projects to get high net worth individuals to write cheques to CERN. "Dear Mr. Gates - I know you're keen on eradicating malaria, and so are we, but wouldn't you like your name on a really cool major atom-smasher too?"

He shares a house with 4 Italian physicists and a French software engineer. It's geek-tastic but the coffee is good.
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Old 07-08-2012, 06:26 PM   #47
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Yesterday I was reading the local small town rag, which is not known for its progressiveness. I said to DW "The D....P.... has an editorial about the Higgs Boson."

Without missing a beat she replied "Are they for it or against it?"
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Old 07-08-2012, 06:35 PM   #48
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Some have praised Higgs for predicting the Higgs Boson. Sure its pretty amazing, but he had all the insights and advantages of modern mathematical physics and particle physics. I'm really impressed by the Greeks like Democritus who came up with an atomic theory of matter 2400 years ago.
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Old 07-08-2012, 06:40 PM   #49
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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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....and that's how physicists think too. You come to work every day and question everything once again.

You can know the charge, mass and to some extent the location and or speed of an electron, but what is it really. Physicists can measure its properties and describe it in various ways depending on a particular (sorry for the pun) situation.....but mostly they just want to see that the maths works.
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Old 07-09-2012, 06:30 AM   #50
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....and that's how physicists think too. You come to work every day and question everything once again.

... mostly they just want to see that the maths works.
I have read that the math working is possibly the most valuable outcome of this effort. The math was pretty compelling and the physical confirmation of predictions makes scientists more confident that future solid math predictions are likely true.
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Old 07-09-2012, 09:59 AM   #51
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True, no way to predict it. But looking at it from an 'opportunity cost' viewpoint - what about the value of more near-term projects that didn't come to light because these guys were working on looking for the existence of this particle?
This could be used as an argument for every major breakthrough. The point of theoretical research is exactly the opposite. The pursuit has no practical application. That is left to others (usually engineers).

The invention of the LASER (MASER actually) was the result of quantum physics but the discovery of quantum physics was not for its applications.
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:11 AM   #52
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True, no way to predict it. But looking at it from an 'opportunity cost' viewpoint - what about the value of more near-term projects that didn't come to light because these guys were working on looking for the existence of this particle?
This could be used as an argument for every major breakthrough. The point of theoretical research is exactly the opposite. The pursuit has no practical application. That is left to others (usually engineers).

The invention of the LASER (MASER actually) was the result of quantum physics but the discovery of quantum physics was not for its applications.
True. But I think the point that LOL! was trying to make (and I am not smart enough to agree/disagree), is that this was a HUGE project at a HUGE cost. With such huge costs, should we have at least some expectations for what we get out of it?

Did any previous major breakthrough have these kinds of resources committed to it? Those guys playing with a stack of chemicals, some wires and a compass didn't spend much time/money. Amber rods and cats are cheap . I guess the Manhattan project would be an example of lots of resources - but they had a clear objective (whether that was a good/bad thing could be debated, but...). The moon shot is probably more questionable, but I'm sure there was a military reason for that as well, even though it wasn't 'sold' as such.

I think LOL! is saying it is a matter of degrees. Basic research, yes. But this particular program? Maybe more questionable. And we will never know - if something fantastic comes out of it, we don't know what else we might have found in other projects that went unfunded.

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Old 07-09-2012, 10:18 AM   #53
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Interesting for those of us (like me) who are struggling to understand....
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Old 07-09-2012, 11:59 AM   #54
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True. But I think the point that LOL! was trying to make (and I am not smart enough to agree/disagree), is that this was a HUGE project at a HUGE cost. With such huge costs, should we have at least some expectations for what we get out of it?

Did any previous major breakthrough have these kinds of resources committed to it? Those guys playing with a stack of chemicals, some wires and a compass didn't spend much time/money. Amber rods and cats are cheap . I guess the Manhattan project would be an example of lots of resources - but they had a clear objective (whether that was a good/bad thing could be debated, but...). The moon shot is probably more questionable, but I'm sure there was a military reason for that as well, even though it wasn't 'sold' as such.

I think LOL! is saying it is a matter of degrees. Basic research, yes. But this particular program? Maybe more questionable. And we will never know - if something fantastic comes out of it, we don't know what else we might have found in other projects that went unfunded.

-ERD50
Well, it's empirical research into fundamental science. We will have a better idea of what we get out of it in fifty to a hundred years, when folks have built on the the research to the point where it becomes engineering. The gap between Rutherford discovering that atoms have nuclei and commercial nuclear power is on that order, for example.

Oh, and don't forget that the Large Hadron Collider was built to support a number of experiments, each of which develops data that can be used to test many different ideas.. Testing the existence of the Higgs boson was just one result from a couple of the experiments.

http://lhc.web.cern.ch/lhc/lhc_experiments.htm
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Old 07-09-2012, 12:32 PM   #55
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Old 07-09-2012, 10:13 PM   #56
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True. But I think the point that LOL! was trying to make (and I am not smart enough to agree/disagree), is that this was a HUGE project at a HUGE cost.
Will it be worthwhile 100 years from now? I don't know. But basic research is most often successful when you do a lot of it, not when you do one thing really really expensive. We could have had a lot of researchers looking at a lot of ideas including some that might have yielded unexpected results. Would we have found something worthwhile? Again, no way to know. But I do like the idea of looking at many things including some we're not sure what we're going to find there, more than looking at one really expensive thing, which we're pretty sure what we're going to find there - and we did.
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Old 07-10-2012, 09:45 AM   #57
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I think the argument against the huge cost of research is one of principle. Until a practical application for it is found, it is sunk cost. It is not just the LHC but the millions of man-hours that have been expended.

One could use the same arguments against medical research until a cure is found. (I am an engineering physics grad and half my class got their PhDs and spent their whole lives doing pure research. We have had many discussions about the relative contribution to society. I went to work after my masters degree.)
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Old 07-10-2012, 10:37 AM   #58
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I think the argument against the huge cost of research is one of principle. Until a practical application for it is found, it is sunk cost. It is not just the LHC but the millions of man-hours that have been expended.

One could use the same arguments against medical research until a cure is found. (I am an engineering physics grad and half my class got their PhDs and spent their whole lives doing pure research. We have had many discussions about the relative contribution to society. I went to work after my masters degree.)
Given that Schottky couldn't have invented the transistor without quantum theory I think pure research is worth every penny. We can never know which avenue of investigation is going to produce the breakthroughs so the scary thing is to think of all the things that never got funded or pursued that would have made life so much better for us. We could have been living to 500 and travelling via transporter beams by now.
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Old 07-10-2012, 10:54 AM   #59
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Given that Schottky couldn't have invented the transistor without quantum theory I think pure research is worth every penny. We can never know which avenue of investigation is going to produce the breakthroughs so the scary thing is to think of all the things that never got funded or pursued that would have made life so much better for us. We could have been living to 500 and travelling via transporter beams by now.
I believe Shockley invented the transistor along with his two cohorts, while Schottky invented a particular diode.
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Old 07-10-2012, 11:05 AM   #60
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I believe Shockley invented the transistor along with his two cohorts, while Schottky invented a particular diode.

Yes, that seems more accurate (wiki):

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From November 17, 1947 to December 23, 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain at AT&T's Bell Labs in the United States, performed experiments and observed that when two gold point contacts were applied to a crystal of germanium, a signal was produced with the output power greater than the input.[8] Solid State Physics Group leader William Shockley saw the potential in this, and over the next few months worked to greatly expand the knowledge of semiconductors.
It also does not appear that any knowledge of quantum physics played into it (or I just am not aware of such), at least from these descriptions, it seems they were investigating the properties of these materials. More like good old lab work than real theoretical stuff?

Also interesting, Edison actually discovered the vacuum tube amplifier - but didn't recognize it as such, or any practical value. I think he tried adding a grid to collect the deposits from forming on the inside of the light bulb:

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Although thermionic emission was originally reported in 1873 by Frederick Guthrie, it was Thomas Edison's 1884 investigation that spurred future research, the phenomenon thus becoming known as the "Edison effect". Edison patented what he found,[4] but he did not understand the underlying physics, nor did he have an inkling of the potential value of the discovery. It wasn't until the early 20th century that the rectifying property of such a device was utilized, most notably by John Ambrose Fleming, who used the diode tube to detect (demodulate) radio signals. Lee De Forest's 1906 "audion" was also developed as a radio detector, and soon led to the development of the triode tube. This was essentially the first electronic amplifier, leading to great improvements in telephony (such as the first coast-to-coast telephone line in the US) and revolutionizing the technology used in radio transmitters and receivers. The electronics revolution of the 20th century arguably began with the invention of the triode vacuum tube.

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