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Message 21713 - Posted: 5 Dec 2009, 15:56:03 UTC



What price the secrets of the universe?

It may be costly to send protons whizzing round the Large Hadron Collider, but such research is a good investment.



Economies are underpinned by scientific research and scientists. Now is exactly the right time to invest more in curiosity-driven research, and although this might sound counterintuitive during the global recession, certainly there is historical precedence. Franklin Roosevelt instigated investment in basic research funding during the Great Depression, with a three-fold increase in the public science budget in the six years up to 1940, which resulted in unparalleled technological development as part of the New Deal. Japan emerged in the 1980s as a technological superpower, but the Japanese economy collapsed in 1990. Basic research was seen as a way out of the slump, and science was placed front and centre in Japanese policymaking. It is now in its third five-year plan, increasing funding to basic research each time.

And just in case anyone is tempted, don\\\'t trot out the old cliche about the only practical spin-offs from the very expensive Apollo missions being Velcro and Teflon. Forget the immeasurable inspirational effect that landing on the moon had, creating a generation of scientists and engineers: proper economic analysis indicated that for every dollar spent on Apollo, $14 were returned to the economy. The business gurus in Dragon\\\'s Den would be drooling at that kind of deal.

Next year, the scientists at the LHC will ignore the advice of the Ghostbusters, and will deliberately cross the streams of protons whizzing round the 27km tunnel at 99.99% the speed of light. When they start getting some results, they may yield an answer to one of the most fundamental questions in the universe. That should be enough to justify the phenomenal spend. Where\\\'s your sense of wonder? But if not, the data is unequivocal. The LHC emphatically exemplifies the solid notion that basic research results in economic growth.


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LHC: The Essential Guide Part 2
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Message 21744 - Posted: 11 Dec 2009, 3:18:25 UTC

What might the LHC discover?


Top of the list is the origin of mass in the universe. We strongly suspect that the particles that make up our bodies don’t just have mass—that is to say substance—but acquire it by some very subtle mechanism. The most well-established theory is the Higgs mechanism, which predicts the existence of one or more particles known as Higgs bosons that should be well within the reach of the LHC.

We also hope to discover the nature of dark matter, which many theorists suspect consists of a new kind of subatomic particle that outnumbers the stuff that makes up the Earth, sun and all the stars in the sky by a ratio of 5:1.

More speculatively, we could discover extra dimensions in the universe, revealing, in a Copernican revolution of unprecedented proportion, that we’re crawling around on a four-dimensional sheet in a perhaps infinitely larger multi-dimensional cosmos like ants on a piece of paper.

And last, but hardly least, we could discover something so strange and, possibly, so useful that nobody has yet thought of it.



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Message boards : LHC@home Science : The LHC: What price the secrets of the universe?


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