Monday, May 25, 2009

Large Hedron Collider: Imagination knows no borders

Some really cool images of the LHC.

...followed by revealing comments on the state of general education... these people did attend school. They can write. They read the words, though the sense escapes them.

When we think of the "third world" we are reminded of the great economic and technological divide that separate us, of Somalia and Chad and Haiti, but in those comments we witness a chasm even greater in the developed world.

This is what happens when 'education' is perceived primarily as job training: create corporate, relatively well paid (though less and less so) corporate slaves to keep the wealth flowing to the top: everything beyond that (art, literature, philosophy--even basic science has to fight an endless defensive rear-guard action) is at best, superfluous, at worst, subversive.




  1. Yes, but is the LHC "basic science"?

  2. I don't know how much more 'basic' you can get--seeking evidence for the building blocks of matter.

  3. Richard, I'm curious... what prompted your question? Something I missed here?

  4. [Sorry for the delay; for some reason, I'm unable to comment here from work.]

    You're saying it's "basic" because the goal is to find the building blocks of matter? How is that basic? As in, how is that really important, in a basic sense? Basic science is solving problems facing people.

    More to the point, this largest, most complex machine ever built is surely obscenely expensive. We pretend that endeavors like this are simply pure science, as if there is such a thing, and when they're wrapped up in huge amounts of capital. As painful and stupid and even reactionary as many of the comments to that article unquestionably are (from "both" sides, frankly), one can have legitimate questions about the nature and purpose of projects like this (like, who decides that massively expensive, yet rather esoteric science projects are in the public interest?) without being an enemy of science per se, without being a religious zealot, etc.

    So, your point, in isolation--that art and literature and philosophy and basic science have to fight "endless defensive rear-guard actions"--is very true, I just don't see how the LHC is relevant to it. That is, it will surely figure in efforts to "keep wealth flowing to the top". After all, who owns it?

  5. I guess I'd disagree in your saying that "basic science is solving problems facing people."

    That's not pure science. that's applied science. Engineering. Important, yes, but infinitly corruptable--as "science' is not what's at stake here--but, politics. what problems? For which part of humanity? This is not science. This is just the application of power for predetermined ends.

    Whose ends? That is not a scientific question. It's the question those who would control science want answered.

    Basic sciene has no prerequisites. That's what makes it basic. It's pure knowledge, for the sake of knowledge. Whatever... we are all bound to extictiion. There is nothing to save us.

    But while we live, it's better to understand the forces that govern us, and guarantee our extinction, than not.

    That to me, is pure science.

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  7. Let me add... that it's far beyond my capacity to respond in depth to this... you've opened a profoundly important set of questions--on the importance of "knowledge" for its own sake... if there can be such a thing, and of course... who pays? And how does that compromise or corrupt the search for knowledge? I in no way want to dismis your question... merely suggest an antithetical way of approaching the fundamental questions involved.

  8. Thanks, Jacob. I'm working through a lot of these questions right now, and sometimes I fear that I come off like an anti-science crank. But I'm so far from anti-science I don't even know how to express it properly. Yet, I feel that ethical and economic issues are too little addressed. We have massive problems facing us right now; it seems to important to re-think many of our assumptions about how we do things.

    I'm not married to the "basic science is solving problems facing people" formulation. I was trying to articulate my problem, and grasping for words. I do believe there's a big gap between basic science and a project like this, however.