The Value of Science - Part 1: High Energy Physics


I'd initially penned the response to db's message in the "Higgs Bosun running out of places to Hide" thread. However, I felt that the nature of the comments raised by dogs_bollox and tufty52 (see below) deserved their own thread, so created this one.


I wouldn't personally say that aid in Africa (or anywhere else for that matter) would be any less of a waste of money than CERN.
I'm all for scientific research but CERN does cost a LOT of money, carries a lot of useless people and does not in my opinion - having worked there for several years - give good value for money. Even more so in these days of being able to share information so easily through the internet.
Referring back to the OP, neither of you two have any actual experience of CERN yourselves do you ? Therefore neither of you have any worthwhile experiences to draw on to base your views on CERN on.
It's like trying to watch two blind people in a large room trying to box :smile:
Do you have any hard facts to support your hypotheses about the value or efficiency of CERN? How are you judging value? Over what time scale? Who in the US, UK or Japan has equipment with similar access to energy levels? Do you have further evidence re its relative efficiency to other similar organizations?

I expect problems, ineffiencies, personal problems, etc to occur in any enterprise. I am somewhat surprised that an organization as inefficient as you make it out to be could manage such a complex project.

What was your position in CERN and what form of oversight did this take - are you speaking from, say, the position of a Brigade Commander, or of a logs squaddie, assessing infantry tactics?


Tufty's message embedded in my response ...

and I was only trying to draw attention to the vast sums of money being spent on this project when the current financial situation is so dire,and why is it wrong to believe that the money could be spent on more worth while causes? ie East Africa..........
If you wish to engage in a considered debate about the value of investment in fundamental science re direct utilization of those funds for immediate aid relief, why don't you start your own thread and commence it with a reasoned, factually-based argument that is written such as to engage respectful discussion? You might, for example, state why fundamental science should be hit rather than, say, adding an extra 10 pence onto the tax bill or creating a cosmetics surtax to pay for aid.
So then Ex ....... , you have still to say what YOUR knowledge of CERN actually is. I suppose you get it all from the Telegraph and New Scientist ?
As far as I am aware, I have not claimed to have any knowledge of CERN. In fact ... thought so ... I've just reviewed all my posts in this thread and can find no evidence that I have said anything about how CERN operates or anything else about it, other than acknowledging they had reported having possibly discovered the signature of a Higgs Boson decay event. I'm afraid you are not building a strong case for the validity of your hearsay evidence about the workings of CERN, no matter what position you may have held, if you leap to conclusions that do not accord with the facts.

I worked as a Team Leader and had full access to ALL of CERN. I dealt with Phyicists' requests for new works and modifications to existing buildings. I was also in charge of the modifications to the LEP tunnel (the now forgotten experiment where the first signs of the Higgs were glimpsed). I organised and ran everything from concrete bin stores to the Computer Grid building and Control building that are LHC dedicated. I cycled the tunnel fully every week as part of my role in maintainence and modifications to the existing underground tunnels and caverns. I saw the end of the new works for Point 5 CMC. I also oversaw contracts, tenders and awards within my specialisation. I worked closely with many other Technical Support groups at CERN. I still remain in contact with many friends who work in everything from the fire service to radio protection to Civil Engineering to the financial depts. I saw this not as a boast as I do not see it as such, but to see how your personal experience of CERN compares and gives you so much more knowledge than me.
As stated, I have no knowledge of CERN. However, as a comms type, I had pretty much the same kind of global access to, and involvement in, much that went beyond my immediate concerns. I used to find out a lot by people telling me stuff because they assumed I knew already (by virtue of having seen all the signal traffic, for example). So I know the kinds of information that can be had by being in the 'right' position. However, I also know that there are many things that I did not know or did not appreciate fully enough to comment reasonably upon, because of my limited view and lack of detailed discipline knowledge.

Due to my role, I had a far more extensive experience than most people who have worked there for 20+ years in their little support and admin' depts.
See above.

One small example of waste. I was called to inspect a leaking building roof. When I arrived it looked like the building was derelict (no money for maintainence due to the spiralling cost of the LHC). Inside was a groupl of Frenchmen playing cards. I had a chat and got about my inspection. Whilst talking to the guys it appeared that a lot of electrical cabinets were sat under the plastic sheets (due to the leaking roof). These cabinets had beenremoved by these 7 guys several years back from the LEP experiment and were refurbished and ready to be re-installed into the LHC. Due to delays this was all 4 years behind programme. No-one knew what to do with these guys and so they were paid to do nothing for years. Keeping an eye on the cabinets and doing a little maintenance and waiting ........ They were mean poker players mind !
I'm sure most of us can up with such examples(*). But, you're right it is a small example and doesn't really go towards validating your assertion about the scale and nature of the efficiency. I'm not saying there weren't, nor that there weren't horrendous cock-ups - however, I've been involved with enough multi-million/billion euro projects to know this is not unusual; indeed, it seems to be par for the course. The Americans have similar horror stories ... worse ones, I suspect; the National Ignition Facility springs to mind as a possibility.

I could give you a thousand things of smaller and larger scale where money was wasted because the organisation is too big to be fully efficient and accountable.
Few, if any, large organizations are likely to be fully efficient and accountable. Unfortunately, the size of the organization is sometimes dictated by the task - WW2 couldn't have been fought with a "lean" brigade, it took hundreds of Divisions. But it doesn't mean they can't be improved.

I was (and remain) VERY interested in the activities of CERN and support a smaller, more efficient CERN.
I can understand more efficient. You have not yet made the case for smaller. See above.

I could tell you the real story behind the 'incident' in the tunnel just after the experiment started and which caused a delay. But what the hell, you'll never believe me as you already know everything about CERN.
Well, as I've already demonstrated that your assertion about my knowledge is incorrect, try me.

I am not saying don't fund science. I am only using my personal experiences to talk about CERN. NOT Science in any broader sense.
Fair enough, again. But they are your personal experiences and need to be validated by others. Nor have you said how it could be made leaner or achieve the scientific goals with a smaller CERN. Don't forget that people are people - there will always be meetings-engineers, empire-builders, can't-be-done-ers, job-protectors, etc - and there is a limited number of people with appropriate training, experience and/or aptitude (even if they are not 'ideal') to pick from.


(*) I had a leaking roof problem on my first tour, with water pouring down one of the electronic workshop's walls, which it had been doing ever since the annex was built some years previously, despite several investigations.
tuffy52 said:
However if the world cannot afford the cost then the project must be delayed until it can be afforded.
I repeat the question that I raise earlier (and created a new thread for), why should fundamental physics lose out when there are other potentially viable targets or sources of funding? If the world's got enough money to for the amount of arms, beer, makeup and video games that's doing the rounds, I'm sure it could well afford high enerygy physics ... whether it wants to strikes me as being the real question.
Extract from message in "Higgs bosun is 'running out of places to hide'" thread
I think that it's worth every penny and such research may save mankind from a holocaust of ignorance.

Sending such amounts of money to third world countries is exactly like pouring fuel on a fire.
I think that it's worth every penny and such research may save mankind from a holocaust of ignorance.

Sending such amounts of money to third world countries is exactly like pouring fuel on a fire.
Agreed. Curiosity driven science has returned far more than has been invested in it.
Agreed. Curiosity driven science has returned far more than has been invested in it.
And that sending money to starving populations may only return more suffering in the long run. Like sending rum to Eskimos to warm them up!
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