STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
The Big Science Promotion Grows Stranger
By Staff News & Analysis - October 22, 2010

CERN scientists eye parallel universe breakthrough … Physicists probing the origins of the cosmos hope that next year they will turn up the first proofs of the existence of concepts long dear to science-fiction writers such as hidden worlds and extra dimensions. And as their Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN near Geneva (pictured left) moves into high gear, they are talking increasingly of the "New Physics" on the horizon that could totally change current views of the universe and how it works. "Parallel universes, unknown forms of matter, extra dimensions… These are not the stuff of cheap science fiction but very concrete physics theories that scientists are trying to confirm with the LHC and other experiments." – Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: Isn't it amazing how real-life imitates the movies?

Free-Market Analysis: In a series of articles, we have explored what we consider to be the risibility of building multi-billion dollar Big Science machines like colliders to enhance scientific understanding. Our point, though we have never entirely boiled it down to its essence until now, is that scientific progress should probably come out of the marketplace (or perhaps from dreamy, brilliant science students dozing under apple trees). It should conform to the modesty of accumulated profits – and certainly to natural law.

The strangeness of modern Big Science goes well beyond its funding stream. As those at CERN grow more desperate for results, the rhetoric surrounding the experiments grows more promotional. This is in fact how the power elites' dominant and sub-dominant social themes are produced. They begin with ideas in controlled scientific journals and then are rebroadcast through the controlled elite mainstream media and if possible, may be recycled once more on TV or in the movies. Finally, once public fervor has been aroused, the ideas are guided to the public trough for financing with taxpayer dollars.

In the case of the Large Hadron Collider, we are startled to find in the most recent statements what sounds like concepts lifted whole from cast-off Star Trek episodes. Are those running this boondoggle really searching for evidence of parallel universes, extra dimensions, etc? (Yes, we've read this in the past but didn't take it seriously.) It has certainly been the stuff of cheap science fiction for nearly a century now.

Hypotheses such as the ones based on an "electrical universe" have as much or more to recommend them in our humble view. Instead of building a multi-billion dollar tube, scientists might be better off "thinking out side the box." It is like the law itself. When regulations stray from natural law they tend to not to work very well. One can pass a law, for instance, that all people wear seatbelts, but this is not a "natural law" in that it is impossible to enforce. What cannot be enforced will be flouted and bring more laws into disrepute. Legislation, therefore, that does not hew to natural law tends to be disregarded and, as well, spreads contempt for civil society.

Of course in our view Western canon law should be discarded entirely. It is monopoly law, in that the state passes laws, enforces them and punishes offenders. We would prefer to see eons-old common law resuscitated along with market-based justice. To the greatest extent possible, issues between people and families should be worked out locally or simply face-to-face. The idea that the current legal-industrial complex, with its jailed millions and working hypothesis that "a debt to society" needs to be paid is increasingly hard to justify in our humble view.

And the same should go for science. If someone, or a company, can afford an experiment, then by all means the research should be undertaken. It does not in any sense flout natural law. It is research moored to the market itself. But let a dozen governments contribute US$1 billion each to build a circular track the size of Belgium to crush invisible particles and we fail to see the linkage to reality. Absent the force of government, this money simply would not be allocated.

The best businesses are often built on cash flow. Put cash aside and expand an existing base of business or elaborate on what has worked with new ventures, built from successful ones. The easiest way to lose a lot of money is to start an entirely new business venture massively funded with other people's money. Why should it be so much different with science?

Does the size of the project make a difference? People fondly point to the Manhattan Project as an example of successful Big Science. But in fact the research had already been performed by Albert Einstein (and maybe others who did not get the credit they should). The Manhattan Project was merely an elaboration of what had already been discovered and proven, at least theoretically.

Perhaps somewhere there is an example of multi-billion dollar government project producing new theoretical results. But we have never heard of any. We are quite aware of the chorus that rises when we present these articles however. We are always told by indignant feedbackers that science has simply grown too complex for any one individual (or even a modest group of individuals) to accomplish anything of merit.

After Thoughts

Apparently, one must throw billions at science to achieve anything of note these days. Maybe there is nothing left for the future but ever more expensive superstructures presenting diminishing returns. Is this why the promoters of Big Science increasingly use the rhetoric of cancelled TV shows, some of it dating back decades? We find it odd. Is Big Science indeed merely a smokescreen for Big Military expenditures? Is the Hadron Collider actually being used for more specific and targeted war research? What exactly are they promoting? And why?

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