STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
A Village of Scientists?
By Staff News & Analysis - September 18, 2012

How many scientists does it take to make a discovery? … The era of the lone genius, as epitomised by Albert Einstein, has long gone … Ask people to conjure up an image of a scientist and Albert Einstein is most likely to pop into their head. The iconic image is of a lone genius beavering away in some secluded room until that familiar equation – E=mc2 – crystallised in his brain sufficiently to be written down. I very much doubt doing science was ever quite like that, but it is even more unlikely to apply now. – UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: It takes a village to build a scientific breakthrough.

Free-Market Analysis: Once again, we find the dominant social theme proposed that many scientists are necessary to make an invention in the modern era.

We've written about this meme before. It is part of the larger promotion to impress upon people that they are no longer capable of understanding their world without the machinery of big science.

This mania for bigness extends throughout society at this point. In the US, for instance, healthcare has turned into Obamacare. Sports are defined by mega events such as the Olympics. Even politics is pursued on the gigantic stage of the United Nations.

Here's some more from the article:

Stephen Hawking's Grand Design, the three-part series currently running on the Discovery Channel, includes vignettes of many of the famous historical names of science: Einstein is there, as are Galileo, Newton and Descartes.

They are all, says Hawking, his heroes and in each case their work is identified with them as individuals. But move into the 20th and 21st centuries and the famous names are no longer necessarily singletons. Discoveries are more likely to be the work of teams which, as in the case of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), may number hundreds, if not thousands …

There is strength in a diversity of approaches and trying to tackle a problem from a single viewpoint, or discipline, today may well be insufficient to achieve the necessary breakthrough. I believe the age of the lone hero(ine) scientist is past. The challenges we face are so multi-faceted and vast that no single mind can encompass all that is needed.

I can hear the alert reader asking, "But what about the Higgs Boson? That was dreamed up by a single man: Peter Higgs." Well, no. There were several theorists all working on this problem simultaneously (this was 50 years ago). It wasn't feasible to name the particle after all of them, but that is not to say they didn't all make serious contributions.

This is a problem that is likely to cause the Nobel Prize Committee a headache when it comes to working out which of them are to win the prize; the rules restrict it to a maximum of three individuals. But it's not just theorists who contributed to the "discovery" of the Higgs Boson. None of them would be in the running for the prize if it weren't for the multi-disciplinary, international teams that built the LHC. Such large teams are increasingly typical of the way the major breakthroughs are being made.

In fact, what ought to cause the Nobel Prize Committee a good deal of head pain is the idea that the Higgs boson itself and the tale of its discovery is questionable to begin with. Here's what GQ wrote just last week:

The Higgs Boson: Steaming Particle of Bull$#!% … Bruno Maddox visited the Large Hadron Collider, and all he got was one lousy God Particle, a whole bunch of Swiss coffee, and infinite questions about the universe …

So it's been a month…wait, no, it's been two months, and from the silence roaring suddenly out of Geneva one has to assume that physicists are still—still—trying to figure out if the subatomic particle lately glimpsed by the Large Hadron Collider really is the elusive "Higgs Boson" they've been hunting for half a century. Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the ABBA-looking dude who runs the Conseil Européene pour la Recherche Nucléaire, which built and maintains the LHC, was only comfortable saying in his July 4th press-conference that the new particle exhibits "Higgs-like" properties, but more research is needed—years of it, to be specific—before we'll know for certain that this is the submicroscopic speck that's famously not actually known as "The God Particle."

Given that no one so much as threw a shoe at Heuer during his maddening announcement, and that CERN's facilities remain untorched, even unvandalized, two months later, what it is not too soon to say, however, is that physics would appear to have gotten away with it: a decades-long campaign of hype, propaganda, and outright deception that saw a ragtag bunch of social misfits swindle the world out of billions of dollars, monies which as of this writing have not been returned. What follows is the story, if not of an outright hoax, then at least of the most audacious and effective PR campaign in the history of science.

The thrust of the GQ article is much the same as several other articles on the subject: Physicists have created elaborate scientific challenges as part of a full-employment.

What is driving big science, in other words, is not a quest for discoveries or even military reasons. It is the more mundane quest for a paycheck.

And it does turn out that the scientific community is now in aggregate admitting that even if Higgs has actually been found – as they say it has – it will only help account for some one percent of the universe's mass.

What's up next? A whole new family of particles and gigantic machines to track their energy signatures. Of course, we're not surprised. We never much believed that the current experiments would offer anything definitive. For more on this issue, search the 'Net for "Daily Bell" and "big science."

The universe, as we reported before, is electrical, or has electrical elements. It is not the weak force of gravity that organizes the universe but the strong force of electricity. Even nebulas are shaped by electrical currents.

Eventually, this will be recognized. It may take years, even decades. The scientific community will fight this sensible conclusion for as long as it can. In fact, that is always the way of science.

But in this era of bigness, the struggle will no doubt be even grimmer than usual.

Of course, there is the Internet Reformation, and readily available information on such items as the electrical universe – that allows laypeople to leap ahead of increasingly sluggish scientific consensus.

We have learned in this modern era that little is as it seems. Vaccines are a not a cure-all but may bring physical injury. Peace is not war. Money is not just paper after all.

After Thoughts

It is no surprise then that the current scientific consensus is probably entirely wrong. Discovering – supposedly – the God Particle will do nothing to change that. Big science marches on.

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