Krauthammer was good and I am not off my meds

In my paper this morning came a Charles Krauthammer column that at first made me laugh out loud. It’s an elegant and beautifully written (and felt) column about . . . neutrinos. He began with a joke that is circulating on the internet:

“We don’t allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here,” said the bartender.

A neutrino walks into a bar.

The column talks about the announcement by the European high-energy physics consortium, CERN, that they’d discovered a particle that travels faster-than-light.

. . . The implications of such a discovery are so mind-boggling, however, that these same scientists immediately requested that other labs around the world try to replicate the experiment. . . .

. . . But if quantum mechanics was a challenge to human sensibilities, this pesky Swiss-Italian neutrino is their undoing. It means that Einstein’s relativity — a theory of uncommon beauty upon which all of physics has been built for 100 years — is wrong . . . deeply, fundamentally, indescribably wrong.

It means that the “standard model” of subatomic particles that stands at the center of all modern physics is wrong. . .  This will not just overthrow physics. Astronomy and cosmology measure time and distance in the universe on the assumption of light speed as the cosmic limit. Their foundations will shake as well.

This is no crank wheeling a perpetual motion machine into the patent office. These are the best researchers in the world using the finest measuring instruments, having subjected their data to the highest levels of scrutiny, including six months of cross-checking by 160 scientists from 11 countries.

But there must be some error. Because otherwise everything changes. We shall need a new physics. A new cosmology. New understandings of past and future, of cause and effect. Then shortly and surely, new theologies.

Why? Because we can’t have neutrinos getting kicked out of taverns they have not yet entered.

A brief and comprehensible read of what this means, for those who, like me, are scientifically illiterate.

(He didn’t mention that it could have been a US discovery had not the high particle accelerator under construction in Texas in the 90’s – which would have been the world’s largest – been cancelled by Congress in ’93. Too expensive you know. Who could afford $12billion – of which we’d already spent a few billion – when we needed a half a trillion to keep the old defense industry building already-outdated aircraft and weapons?)

8 responses to “Krauthammer was good and I am not off my meds

  1. The largest existing accelarator in the US is also in the process of being decommissioned. So much for science.

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  2. Ms. Holland ,

    What detriment did we suffer letting Europe pay for this great discovery ? Do we not have access to the information ?

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    • Pride, Alan, pride. This is the stuff we used to be first with but we’re so busy fighting and paying for wars all over the world that we’re hardly creating anything of value any more.

      It should have been us.

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  3. Ms. Holland,

    ” Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. ”

    Self defense is the first duty of a nation . If the knowledge created by this neutrino was kept like a patent, then there would be an advantage to being prideful. Right now, we know what the Europeans know and they spent the money. Seeing how they have lived behind the shield of our armed forces for 6 or so decades, they are still getting the better deal .

    Terrorism grew in the 90s to strike us later because we were not willing to go into the swamps and drain them. Since we have done the hard work, terrorism around the world has stopped expanding.

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    • Sekan has it right. All of our great manufacturing, medical and science industries depended on huge influxes of research and investment from the federal government. That’s always been the way, but we have chosen to forget and pretend otherwise.

      The collider? How much manufacturing did that spur (in Europe)? How many jobs did it create (in Europe)? HOw many entirely new industries and how much new knowledge grew out of it (in Europe).

      [Self defense is the first duty of a nation] We spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined and we are something like 1/16th of the population. No naiton needs that for self defense. And that’s not what we use it for.

      We’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot for decades now and we’re sliding down in the world by every measure. We are a failing empire (cool with me actually) but in the process, we’re also a failing nation.

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  4. Any good Capitalist will tell you that research and innovation are what drove us to be the greatest economy in the world. Historians and economists agree.
    In the late 40’s and early 50’s we spent twice as much of our GDP on research and innovation. It is not coincidence that as that spending has declined, so has our economy.
    The only thing we export really well today are the best and brightest minds of our time.

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