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Steve Nahn | USLHC | USA

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Why media matters

Hello All-
Nice to hear from old friends and new friends. Alan (MSNBC and creator of the Cosmic Log), I look forward to the full package. In fact, as I was doing all this media activity I realized that it is probably the best form of outreach we can do-with this blog, I won’t come anywhere near the readership of Alan, or the NY Times, Chicago Trib … In addition, these people are trained to communicate this message to the public effectively, while I am trained in Experimental Particle Physics, and there isn’t much overlap. Just as an example, I could make a web page describing my research for public consumption, but it would probably be too technical and not nearly as accessible as what David Levin and friends at NOVA Science Now put together. Much better to explain to the media experts and let them do the packaging to explain to the public, in my opinion.

Now, some of my colleagues (who will remain nameless) have been rather “high and mighty” about talking to the media, claiming that it is not relevant to the task at hand or only for those who want fame rather than physics. To these colleagues I ask – “Where does your paycheck come from?” In the end, our field is supported by taxpayer dollars (and similar for countries outside of the US), so if we refuse to inform the public about what we are doing and why it is important, seems pretty likely that our support will founder.

Sometimes this is hard – if you venture away from the spinoff argument Jane Q. Public doesn’t necessarily see the benefit the LHC brings her. However, I think you can sell the argument that exploration of the workings of nature is beneficial for the evolution of civilization-if we stop pursuing questions that don’t have immediate technological payoffs, we’ll become intellectually stagnant. 2005 was the centennial of Einstein’s famous papers, with much hullabaloo in the Physics community. Can anyone imagine that in 1905 one could predict what the world would be like 100 years later? So, what will it be like in 2105?

OK, enough pontification, I’ll aim to keep this short (I have a tendency to write far too long emails, and noone reads past the first few sentences). Next time, I’ll try to answer Jean’s question about the contrast between Geneve and Batavia…carefully.

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