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Ken Bloom | USLHC | USA

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Lost frontier? Certainly not!

Now that the LHC is really operating, the machine and the science are very much in the news again.  Most of the coverage is quite positive (including some very nice words in our local press), but I have to take issue with the tone of an article that appears in today’s New York Times.  (Perhaps some of our readers have noticed your dear correspondent’s obsession with this particular news outlet.)  It does celebrate the very first collisions at record beam energies, in rather colorful language, but it also expresses a sense of national loss over the fact that this is happening in Europe, not the United States.  “Those spinoffs now will invigorate the careers and labs of Europe, not the United States, pointed out Steven Weinberg,a  physicist at the University of Texas in Austin, who won the Nobel Prize for work that will be tested in the new collider,” the article says.

I have to take issue with Weinberg, and by extension reporter Dennis Overbye.  (Overbye I don’t worry about disagreeing with, but am I asking for it by going up against a Nobelist?)  Is this so devastating for the U.S.?  To be sure, I would rather that we have the accelerator here, mostly so that I could go to visit more easily.  But then again, I would also like to have universal health care in which everyone can get as much treatment they want without anyone having to pay for it, too.  The reality is still appealing.  Americans are full participants in these experiments — we have equal access to the data, and have as much chance of discovering things as anyone else.  People from the United State have made critical contributions both to the LHC itself and to the detectors.  I probably shouldn’t suggest that it couldn’t be done without us, but I like to think that my collaborators around the world would agree that this was done more easily with us involved.  We have played key leadership roles in the development and construction of many of components of the experiments, and that leadership will continue as we move into the data analysis phase.  Perhaps most importantly, there really is a spirit of cooperation in these experiments — it is not one country against another, but everyone working together towards a common goal of scientific understanding.  Everyone involved is going to benefit from the discoveries that we make.

As I write, the LHC status page says “FIRST HIGH INTENSITY STABLE BEAMS.”  Discoveries, coming soon.

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