Aparna in Mozambique

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The End of the World?

It is a normal evening in Beira. I worked on a research proposal with a group of students this morning, had a few meetings in the afternoon, went for my run, did my emails, and started working on a new research proposal for another knowledge, attitudes, and practices survey in a different district....and THEN........



Picture me. I am sitting and typing an application and working on some other things over tea and the BBC...and suddenly I am hearing scientists debating over something I remember from somewhere into my geeky astronomy loving past....THE LHC (zooming now into my sophomore year of college)...really, are they talking about the Large Hadron Collider on the BBC? Why, I am wondering (zooming back)? Because they want to do some new experiments (YAY)....they want to slam lots of things together really quickly and simulate the early universe (COOL). Lots of people are on the air, talking about dark matter and black holes. And oh no, now they are talking about Mr. Hawking. You know when they talk about Hawking that they are trying to get people excited....And people who don't know a whole lot about the universe love to talk about dark matter and black holes. True, they are they "flashy" things that people like to think about. And of course, important, but I'm not totally convinced on either one. They come from things we can't explain.

You know, we can't explain a lot of things. And sometimes we fill this space with things we can imagine that seem like they could exist. Based on observations of course. And experiments. Lots of smart people look at them and agree. But, still, how do you really really know? You don't, huh?

So, all of these people are coming on the BBC. People are scared (OOH). They are giving the poor physicist death threats (AAAH). Give the guy a break! This is some lifetime science experiment of his, let the old man have a good time and go to town! Plus he has joined up with buddies from big places...you know it is big when they get the buddies involved! I think he deserves to have a little fun....isn't this what scientists breathe for? So, yes, now a certain important person comes on and is talking about how when the protons crash together, beams (people love talking about beams), really fast, lots of them, gravity could increase around them, and phew, black holes everywhere. Inside the collider? Is this possible. Yes. Likely, the smart people say no. I have to say, I kinda trust the smart people. Plus tomorrow is only the test, the real show doesn't even happen until October (yawn).

Why am I talking about this? I haven't thought about the LHC since I was in college. Nor is it really relevant to what I am doing now....or is it?? When I was in grad school the first time, someone once asked me why people spend money on just this type of thing. I have no real answer other than, well, for one thing, it is really cool, I mean, look at the picture. And on the other hand, everyone wants to know more about the universe. However they explain it and however they question it, they are interested. And in general, everyone wants to know more about something that they can't envision happening. Traveling invokes this feeling, trying new food, cracking a puzzle or even, trying really hard to understand social problems, even if there is no specific reason...trying to get why people are hopelessly lost even if you can't put your finger on a concrete reason....(rambling)

Besides all of these things that I can compare to why we would want to know what the Universe was like right after it all got started....I like it because well, it makes me slow down a little bit and remember that there are millions of things that I really don't understand in the world. The wonders of living in Beira often also remind me of this, but in a much much different way. There are always people that are scared to understand more because it challenges their world view....I think that this point is probably more valid than the actual dangers of the big cool machine that makes things move and slam into each other really quickly...(WOW)

Looking forward to see how it all turns out (hopefully can sleep tonight)....aparna


Blogger Tino said...

People seem to panic when 'truth' is at their doorstep. Curiosity often loses when faced with fear of the unknown.

The article you were linking to can be found directly at http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2008/09/#085605

For all those who haven't been infected by the LHC hype-- there's a beautiful video that might do the job http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67q_2V6xOxE

3:45 PM  
Blogger professor said...

yes, I was scared...of the unknown? maybe...it just doesnt seem natural...and all that energy...what if it's too much to contain...I was very glad to wake up that morning...now I have till October to relax cause the anxieties will start again...

11:20 AM  
Blogger Acacia said...

thanks apsy i was wondering what all the fuss was about!

2:05 AM  

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