The End of the world…

August 18, 2008

There’s an article on the CBC website today about the world’s largest particle accelerator, and although it’s very short, there are a couple of interesting things in it. First is the notion that there is a “God particle” that lies at the base of particle theory – no one has every measured/seen this particle directly. It’s assumed to exist and founds the entire theory. If this particle is proven not to exist, the entire theoretical edifice will fall down and a new one will have to be built. That is, there’s a lack that belies the entire system and can only be felt in it’s supposed effects (giving weight to all other particles), and a name (master sig?) given to that lack: the Higgs boson.

doomsday collider

"doomsday" collider

The second thing I found that was interesting is that there is a political movement that is trying to have the experiments shut down, using the argument that they could bring about mini-black holes that would spell the end of the world. In the comments section someone with the handle ‘jetsdude’ makes a remark much like Z would make: “We consume 10 times as much as we should, we drive around in giant gass guzzlers, we pour polution into our fresh water lakes…yet we’re worried that a black hole is going to eat our planet…” (and I would add – cough cough – capitalism to that list). That is, there are far more important things to get political about, yet people are displacing their energies onto an object whose preservation is needed to maintain the world the way it is.

Third is the comment by “animesux” that we should “Just kick back and put your trust in science.” So, in place of a religious God, we have a “God particle” to be discovered by science, a discipline into which we should put our total trust. First comes God (religion) then comes Nature (Marquis de Sade replacing God with Nature…) then comes Science filling the same old role…

Except the Physicist from McMaster being interviewed about the collider says that one of the major roles of particle physics as a discipline is not to find the meaning of the universe, but to produce people who can join the market economy:

Physicists are really in demand outside academia, and the reason they are is that the portable skills you get as a physicist are rare. You learn how to analyze problems from first principles, to translate that into mathematics, to solve the mathematics and then to translate it back into implications for the thing you are trying to solve. And that’s really useful everywhere in the economy.

My students that go out into the workforce are bankers, insurance people, engineers and software people. These people are going into a very useful place in the economy, but they wouldn’t have gone there directly. The reason they learn these skills is because particle physics is cool and you get to think about the universe as a whole, or you get to think about what matter is made of. And they are drawn by that in a way they wouldn’t be drawn naturally into something like banking.

 Through the cunning of reason, a physicist becomes a great capitalist…

Though, it could totally go the other way: the question, I suppose, is why do psysicists become bankers, and not social workers or Lawyers (and perhaps they do…)?

And even if the “God particle” is found to exist, is there anything that prevents that particle from being further being studied to show that it is in fact composed of other particles? In place of God, then, you get the constant refinement of Wissenshaft


One Response to “The End of the world…”

  1. sonnyburnett said

    When I glanced at the article, I initially mis-read the title as “The Large HARDON Collider: ‘Seeing nothing is not an option'”….

    Phallic in its very name!

    Perhaps that’s a better reading, seeing as these physicists are doing what they can to fill in that lack (or better: their very activity of constantly refining Wisseschaft simultaneously creates/fills in that lack).

    You are right. Either they find this God particle & another will immediately assume its place (that is, if they choose to continue the march forward), or they’ll bravely confront the traumatic fact of the ‘lack of the lack’, in which case becomming the first Lacanian/Hegelian analyst-physicists & promptly embark on a lecture tour to explain to the world how these particles only ever come to be thru their very loss.

    Something tells me, though, that they will never find it, God will keep slipping away from them.

    But I’ll bet they are enjoying the ride!

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