I support spending taxpayer dollars on science more than most other areas of government expenditure. Extending the frontiers of human knowledge is a legitimate goal of public policy.
To start, two science stories. This (northern) summer, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be commissioned. In the form of a ring with a circumference of 27km and buried 100 metres below the Franco-Swiss border on the outskirts of Geneva, it is the most powerful tool of its type ever constructed.
The scientific questions it will be targeting are mind-boggling: what happened in the first second following the inception of our universe some 13.7 billion years ago? Why do particles have mass? Does the Higgs boson really exist? What is the dark matter that makes up most of the universe made of?
Every statistic about the LHC is overwhelming. Particles will be accelerated to 99.99% of the speed of light; detectors will sift through vertiginous amount of data created by 600 million collisions per second. The instrument has taken nine years to build. While the Europeans have funded 90 per cent of the 3.7 billion euros the project has so far consumed, it will engage scientists from more than 100 countries.
To which I can only say “bravo” to the Europeans for such a staggering commitment which has no goal other than the quest of understanding why our universe is the way it is.
Like Simon, I think there is a legitimate case for public spending on science. Knowledge is what seperates us from the cavemen.
And now you ask, why do particles have mass??