Timberlake: Higgs boson, not in America

Ian Timberlake

Nationalism nowadays is generally an inadequate mentality. It estranges one nation from an ever globalizing world. A world that will need to work together to accomplish great things. But I need to admit, it was a bittersweet moment when I heard that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva discovered a Higgs boson like particle with nearly 100 percent accuracy on America’s Independence Day.

If you aren’t familiar with the latest news (and I dearly hope you are) for nearly 50 years the proposed Higgs boson particle was the most sought after discovery in science. Some have argued it would be the greatest human discovery to date.

Ironic undertones, as not too long ago Congress canceled a project already underway in Texas called the Superconducting Super Collider, which was to build an accelerator three times as powerful as the European counterpart. Congress cut funding due to cost, which was budgeted to $12 billion, similar to that of the International Space Station. Although the NASA budget is not under the same allocation as the Super Collider, just to put it in perspective, the recent bank bailout was of a greater monetary cost than NASA has ever spent in the half century it has existed. To say that the science isn’t affordable, let alone worth it, is a tall tale.

The fall of the Soviet Union brought a cease funding mentality as far as the U.S. government was concerned, regardless of the dreams of scientists, nerds and children alike. Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses was no longer an issue of significance.

What concern does this have with the Higgs boson particle? Well, the Fermilab accelerator in Illinois (the world’s second largest operating accelerator) had been searching for the particle for decades. Fermilab had had hints of the Higgs particle for years but didn’t have quite the power of the new Hadron Collider. In 2010 Fermilab asked for $100 million just to keep it running, less than a third of a thousandth of a percent of the national budget. The request was denied, and America’s most capable accelerator was shut off.

The Super Collider would’ve been 20 times the power of Fermilab’s accelerator and already more powerful than the recently built Hadron Collider, significantly increasing the likelihood of verifying Peter Higgs proposition of the Higgs particle — and therefore keeping our nation at the forefront of science. Not because the United States should be at the forefront but because it’s the intelligent and natural thing to do, and competition fuels the dreams of tomorrow.

Once verified, the discovery of the Higgs boson particle will be eternalized in history just as were the theories of Einstein, Bohr, Darwin, Newton and Galilei to name a few. What each of these great scientific discoveries has in common is that in each of their current times, no one knew quite exactly the implications of such discovery, not even the discoverer. But each was paramount in expanding the bubble of knowledge humans have.

Without Einstein, we would have no GPS and no knowledge of the relation of time and space. Without Bohr, we would have little understanding of atomic structure and quantum mechanics. Without Darwin, we would have no modern biology. Without Newton, we would have no calculus, at least not until much later. Galilei is the father of modern science, according to Einstein. And Peter Higgs very well could be the father of understanding the fabric of space itself.

And what do we have to say about it? Yahoo’s top article was about Justin Bieber on the Fourth of July, the day CERN discovered the particle. You would need to scroll through several pages of news to find anything related to the Higgs boson particle. The same reaction is represented all over America. Nobody seemed to give a damn — unless you were in the science community. Back when Einstein was set to prove his theory via a solar eclipse, the entire world was bridling with energy in anticipation for his results. Once the results came, headlines around the world celebrated science. The Times of London read “Revolution In Science.” The New York Times read “Einstein Theory Triumphs.” Beers were named after the nutty man himself. He was eventually labelled person of the century by Time.

Americans need to restore their drive for discovery. It is requisite for our society to remain a card player among current and up and coming first-world nations. The stone age is only a stone’s throw away in species terms; let’s not let it throw back. We all know about our Nobel Prize Laureate; let’s keep the reputation that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Every one of us needs to push and advocate scientific discovery. Open up your children or future children to it. Even if you don’t care about it, it’s guaranteed to affect your life in every way possible. When you reach the ripe old age of “kick the bucket,” you can say you were alive when the Higgs boson particle was discovered.