“Brave New World”

A Brave New World that has such ‘particles’ in it. As Miranda in The Tempest looks at the people that enter the island she lives on, she is perplexed by the newness that they bring to her little, self-contained world. The physicists at CERN seem to look at every new particle they discover with the same awe and wonder. In Miranda’s case, the people she remarks upon as new are equally astonished by her and think her to be the news. Both sides are not aware that they actually come from the same area, the same background even and are way more similar than they think possible. I do not want to create a similarity between particle physicists and new particles, but part of the message of The Tempest is about discovery of something that one already knows almost inherently and that does strike me as a similarity to the research at CERN. Physicists there discover ‘new’ particles and have new insights into a universe that subsequently seems to be very alien to the world we inhabit but still is the same.

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has produced a new breakthrough in and for physics today by letting proton beams collide at 7 TeV. That was the official start of the research programme of LHC and for the search of the elusive Higgs boson which is needed to explain why particles have mass. The universe is to about 95% made up out of dark matter and dark energy. Neither of which can be successfully explained so far. The goal of the LCH experiments is to ‘recreate’ the universe as it was mere nanoseconds after the Big Bang. What physicists will discover will propel physics forward indefinitely and it will change how they understand the very early universe. As did the meeting with new people changed Miranda’s view of the world. But how significant will that change in worldview be? The LHC has raised many questions and agitated the minds of many people. Fear of black holes and their world swallowing properties to the sheer costs it has produced are only a small part of what people are concerned with. What we should be concerned with are the earth shattering things that they can possibly discover at CERN. Maybe the universe and therefore our world are really quite different from what we believe now and maybe in a couple of years time almost everything we have learned and believe to be true about physics will end up in history or comic books. What they do at CERN is much more exciting than most of us believe and we all should be very anxious about that ‘Brave New World’ that is out there.

Related articles:
Press release from CERN

Emergence in Physics
By Andrew Wayne and Michal Arciszewski
University of Guelph
Vol. 4, September 2009
Philosophy Compass

Author: the medical philosopher

I am a philosopher of science with the main focus on philosophy of medicine. I write about evidence based medicine, medical research versus medical practice, ethics in medicine and why medicine needs to be patient centred and how we can achieve that.

2 thoughts on ““Brave New World””

  1. I enjoyed your piece and see the similarities between Miranda and the Tempest. You’re absolutely right of course, the potential benefits of this experiment are limitless, the risks are calculated but yet unproven. We should remember this is a scale up experiment and understand that colliders have been around for some time now. The difference being of course this collider could potentially deliver the goods! There will always be doubters and doom mongerors, just as there must have been when Columbus set off on his round the earth voyage! It’s a truly amazingly exciting era of human history!
    Here’s a question for you, bearing in mind the potential to discover something as huge as ‘the earth isn’t flat’ do you think the scientific agencies and the governments will explain fully what the implications of their findings are?

  2. Pingback: what is physics

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