The first principles of the universe are atoms and empty space. Everything else is merely thought to exist. —Democritus of Abdera
Joy has indeed descended upon “Mudville” as the mighty LHC smashed a home run and CMS and ATLAS scored in the bottom of the ninth – just as the lights were about to be turned off. It seems that “the cumulative budget deficit originating from LHC construction [believed to have cost $6.5 billion so far - up from a $4.5 billion budget] has not been [sic] payed yet”. Serious budget cuts are planned mostly for future R&D, pension funds are underfunded by $1.7 billion (Dollars and Swiss Francs are roughly equal in value) and the European economic crisis is having a negative effect on sponsor contributions. Design improvements for the Large Hadron Collider have been put off and ongoing operating budgets hover around $1 billion annually. Experts on the financial crisis are everywhere, but the most logical reason for releasing the somewhat preliminary results about Higgs (or whatever) boson comes down to: “It’s the money, stupid!”
Columbia University physicist Peter Woit . . . insists the LHC looks safe for the foreseeable future.
He says the impetus to rush out their incomplete findings this week seems to have been the start of the 36th International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne, Australia. In the world of atom smashing, this is a big deal. “I don’t think funding issues have much to do with this,” Woit told GlobalPost.
“As far as I know, CERN has no immediate budget problems. Their experimental program for the next few years is mainly just to operate the LHC, not build something new or upgrade the LHC, where funding might be a problem.”
Oh yes indeed, we should all buy into his rather bizarre argument. Gosh, after 35 previous international conferences, the scientists must have literally run out of things to say to one another about the “Standard Model“. Let the good times roll! But let us not forget about the software bugs . . . and a USB device connection error at CERN that required withdrawal of an FTL neutrino discovery claim, previously rated 6-sigma.
There are, of course, Higgs boson naysayers who got little press coverage. This appeared only in the UK Telegraph:
Dr Aidan Randle-Conde, a British physicist working on ATLAS, argues that rushing things, while good for PR, makes for bad science: “This is the worst thing we could do… The Higgs field was postulated nearly 50 years ago, the LHC was proposed 30 years ago … and we’ve been taking data for about 18 months. We should resist the temptation to get an answer now.”
From Science News comments section we find this reaction from scientist Robert L. Oldershaw, who asked: “Do theoretical particle physicists want the “Higgs Mechanism” so badly that they have lost scientific objectivity?”
It seems to me that theoretical particle physics is more religion than science.
If theories can avoid any predictions whatsoever (e.g., string/brane theory), or if theories can arbitrarily “adjust” their ersatz “predictions” (e.g., the standard model, especially QCD; supersymmetry; “WIMP” dark matter; etc.), then you do not have testable science. You have pseudoscience.
Albert Einstein showed many times how theories of principle can make definitive predictions that are prior, feasible, quantitative, non-adjustable and unique to the theory being tested. General Relativity is the archetypal example. That is what science aspires to, not fudged “model-building” which can only be viewed as temporary constructs that beg to be replaced by theories of principle.
We need to be less credulous. We need to demand theories of principle that can make and pass definitive predictions.
Scientists were first moved away from individualistic research when the United States government began the Manhattan Project (1942 to 1946) to develop the atomic bomb. Later, in 1957, President Eisenhower acceded to patriotically-motivated research when he approved formation of the NASA agency to catch up to the Soviets in space exploration. Ironically, Ike later warned against the destruction of economically sound scientific research by individuals in his farewell speech to the nation in January 1961.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
Now CERN (and the European Union that spawned its growth) is showing the same bureaucratic expansion malady (forever driven by funding scarcity) that has destroyed the effectiveness of organizations such as NASA and the United Nations. Unfortunately, only the bankruptcy of whole countries in Europe will stop today’s scientific extravagance in Geneva.
incredible CLOUD experiment results at the Melbourne conference?
Sadly, the answer is politics. Even before the results of CLOUD were in, scientists and politicians were condemning the project for minimizing the claim of the anthropogenic (human-caused) nature of global warming and for repudiating the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide.
The CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets) laboratory experiment, CERN believes, will show the mechanisms through which the sun and cosmic rays can influence the formation of clouds and thus the climate. The CLOUD project will use a high-energy particle beam from an accelerator to closely duplicate cosmic rays found in the atmosphere. This will be the first time this technology will be brought to bear on global warming, the most controversial scientific question of the day.
Also for the first time, very basic answers about the drivers of climate change may surface to dispel the general paucity of data on the subject. “By studying the micro-physical processes at work when cosmic rays hit the atmosphere, we can begin to understand more fully the connection between cosmic rays and cloud cover,” CERN explains. “Clouds exert a strong influence on the Earth’s energy balance, and changes of only a few per cent have an important effect on the climate.”
The experiment was highly successful not only delivering all expectations by verifying the effect of the Sun’s gamma ray flux on cloud cover but also corroborating previous Danish experiments conducted by Dr. Henrick Svenmark. Nigel Calder, who introduced the cosmic ray concept to CERN’s Jasper Kirkby, speculates what would have been, if climate scientists had been offered an explanation/proof of the high correlation between solar cycle lengths and global temperatures — before the pseudoscience of AGW theory became a meal ticket.
Retracing those 14 years, what if physics had functioned as it is supposed to do? What if CLOUD, quickly approved and funded, had verified the Svensmark effect with all the authority of CERN, in the early 2000s. What if the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had done a responsible job, acknowledging the role of the Sun and curtailing the prophecies of catastrophic warming?
For a start there would have no surprise about the “travesty” that global warming has stopped since the mid-1990s, with the Sun becoming sulky. Vast sums might have been saved on misdirected research and technology, and on climate change fests and wheezes of every kind. The world’s poor and their fragile living environment could have had far more useful help than precautions against warming.
CERN’s wholehearted support of a climate-controlled-by-the-sun premise could be saving the world’s economy billions upon billions of dollars annually. When will we ever learn?
Crossposted from gad-fly