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Frank Simon | MPI for Physics | Germany

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The Value of Fundamental Research

After a long day at the Institute, which saw the successful evaluation of our PhD school, I stumbled across a very enjoyable article last night. I guess quite a few of you might have seen this already, as it was already posted on Tuesday on the Guardian website:

“What price the secrets of the universe?”

The article strongly argues that investment into basic research is worth every penny, and that the economic gain of projects like the LHC is far greater than the project costs in the long run. While it is highly unlikely that we’ll generate hard cash by selling Higgs Bosons to the masses, many important spin-off technologies have come out of particle physics. After all, you would not be reading this blog without the invention of the world wide web at CERN 20 years ago. And there is so much more, just think about medical imaging or cancer therapy, to just name two examples. Often the benefits of exploring uncharted territory only become apparent much later. I absolutely love the fish allegory by “WelshmanEC2” in the comments section of the article. Just as important as new technologies is the educational aspect: Just yesterday during the review of our PhD school it was pointed out that right now there are about 700 PhD students on the ATLAS experiment alone. A whole generation of highly qualified scientists is being trained on such a large project, and many more will be inspired to pursue a career in science and technology, so important for our high-tech dominated societies.

And, all economic benefits aside: Curiosity and the drive to understand how the world around us, and indeed our whole universe, works is what makes us human. Who knows what wonders we’ll discover in this new era of exploring the Terascale that is now beginning?

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