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Posts Tagged ‘William Rainey Harper’

Why I will sleep tonight

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Well, somebody should play the contrarian around here, and today it will be me.

On the first day ever of classes at the University of Chicago in 1892, President William Rainey Harper declared that there should be no particular celebration of the event, saying that the first day should go on as if the university had existed for a thousand years already.  And so I feel about the LHC.  Tomorrow will of course be a milestone in the history of the project, but let us keep in mind that this is not all about one day.  Two decades of effort by thousands of people have preceded it, and the first circulation of beam can be viewed as just one more evolutionary step in that context.  And like Churchill said, this is not the end, or even the beginning of the end — it’s only the end of the beginning.  What comes next, after our friends in the press have left and the Champagne bottles have been drained, is what we all really signed on for: the scientific discoveries that, over the next decade, are going to change our understanding of how the universe works.  At the University of Chicago’s decennial celebration in 1901, Harper said, “In these modern times ten years count for as much as one hundred years did formerly.”  I think we’ll be saying the same thing in 2018.

Now, this is all easy for me to say, as I’m not on the CERN site to share the excitement, and in fact the festivities start at 2 AM my time.  Not quite so festive for a day person like myself!  So, best of luck to all of my colleagues and fellow bloggers in Geneva; I’ll check in on you around 4 PM your time to see how things are going.  I’m sure there will be good news, and thus I will sleep soundly.

Oh, and for all of you who are wondering whether the LHC has destroyed the Earth, you can check on the status here.  Like I said, I’m going to sleep soundly.

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