Well the new Large Hadron Collider is up and running which means great things for those involved in string theory and quantum mechanics. Or those such as myself who simply find reading the pop-science books on the topics enjoyable (and which is the limit of my understanding for the subject matter). This massive 27km structure in France and Switzerland will slam particles into each other at near-light speeds. Nevertheless, not everyone is happy about the collider, and I found CNN's description of this quite amusing.
While observers were left nonplussed by the anticlimactic flashing dots on a TV screen that signalled the machine's successful test run, among teams of scientists involved around the world there were jubilant celebrations and popping champagne corks.
In the coming months, the collider is expected to begin smashing particles into each other by sending two beams of protons around the tunnel in opposite directions.
Skeptics, who claim that the experiment could lead to the creation of a black hole capable of swallowing the planet, failed in a legal bid to halt the project at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
I would consider the opponents above much more than skeptics... and of course hoping that these skeptics' view on the project will prove unfounded, I notice that other less dramatic skeptics exist towards the project exist as well.
Others have branded it a colossal waste of cash, draining resources from its multinational collaborators that could have been spent on scientific research with more tangible benefits to mankind.
Perhaps, I haven't followed the details of funding this project and whether or not the relevant people supported it. But I can't help thinking about atomic energy or quantum mechanics (and possible quantum computing now in the works) and all the benefits we've reaped or will reap from them. And the project cost US$9bn, which is massive, but then again how much does the US blow through for a few months in Iraq?
I've heard people attack space exploration on similar grounds as the collider and I feel that in the end while near-term tangible benefits are surely good, sometimes we need to make sure we go for the less tangible longer term ones as well. Benefits come from strange places. Who would have thought that a lot of time spent thinking on human rights and different forms of representative government would have lead to the most prosperous and innovative time for the human race? Also, as from another CNN article.
Why should the layperson care about this particular exploration? Years ago, when electrons were first identified, no one knew what they were good for, but they have since transformed our entire economy, said Howard Gordon, deputy research program manager for the collider's ATLAS experiment.
Anyhow, whether the money proves itself worthwhile or not, I hope we can agree to just cross our fingers and hope that the earth isn't swallowed by a man-made blackhole, as some skeptics would suggest.