"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

CERN for children – and Chicago Daily Herald Readers

We’ve just been through a period of historic excess and debauchery, based on the financial miscalculation that the world had nearly twice as much wealth as it has now, where celebrities where famous for nothing other than fame itself and where the robbers were running the banks (an altogether more systemic societal risk than lunatics running asylums). Nothing like the here and now, after this monstrous, toxic, asset-zit has exploded, cries out for meaning and purpose.

In this existential vacuum, the Daily Herald, ‘Suburban Chicago’s Information Source ‘, prints a reader’s letter by Patricia Grabowicz which complains about money going to Fermilab to spend on mere particles, with what I would argue is a cheap shot saying the money would be better spent on education.

While showering money on places that served no higher purpose than profit, places like Fermilab, which probe the very essence of our existence on this spec of sand in an intergalactic ocean and carry the meaning and purpose that inspire people to educate themselves in the first place, are surely the very things we need to invest in.

But that is not where Grabowitz is wrong. The single, devastating, reader comment by Larry Jankowski at the end of the letter is worth quoting in its entirety:

The Tevatron is being shut down as soon as CERN super-collider goes on-line. No experiments using it for pure science are in the future budget. But the ancillary services provided by the LINAC, and booster rings, like protons and synchrotron light, for treating cancers and materials manufacturing research, is what the budgeted money is for. The search for Higgs is being moved to the EU and CERN.

Fermilab money to save people from dying of otherwise untreatable cancer is not such a bad thing, and a better use of that money than special education classes for a handful of politicians, and keeps scientists and medical researchers here, rather than brain-draining their talent to the EU.

As Fermilab gets ready to pass off to CERN, it is just possible that it may find the particle that gives mass that CERN was built for, the Higgs Boson. This week the scope of where it may exist was further narrowed and a mysterious particle called Y(4140) was discovered. If Fermilab doesn’t find the Higgs, CERN will certainly either find it, or perhaps more excitingly prove that it doesn’t exist, bringing into question the core of our current understanding of reality.

This all sounds abstract, and unfortunately, real things are not always simple, but the challenge of discovery is as thrilling as and more important than the Apollo missions.

CERN have put together a great website for children, where the playlist at the top comes from. Make this your information source, Daily Herald readers.


3 comments on “CERN for children – and Chicago Daily Herald Readers

  1. Noah says:

    Thank you for posting this. Funding advanced research is a vital part of moving our society forward. People complain about the trip to the moon yielding nothing since we’ve never been back but guess what? Advances in microchips that led to the personal computer and the internet were discovered, velcro was created, GPS was advanced and deployed – all because of the space program. We too often forget that it’s not always about the destination but it’s about the discoveries along the road. This is true in science and in life.

  2. Dan Westlake says:

    and where would we be without the internet and velcro…

  3. les says:

    i think the best educational video about CERN is the Large Hadron Rap:


    actually, i think CERN is one of the most fascinating developments to come down the pike since the invention of the light bulb.

    about velcro: velcro was the brain-child of swiss engineer george de maestral who perfected the basic design (and material by using nylon) in 1957, a few years before anyone was sent into space. see stephen fenicelli’s book “plastic: the making of a synthetic century”

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