Big Science Desperation Over God Particle
By Staff News & Analysis - July 14, 2010

Despite reports, 'God particle' eludes Fermilab Community! … Despite what you may have heard this week, scientists at Fermilab have not discovered the Higgs boson, the elusive "God particle" that may explain why objects have mass. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, the country's premier particle physics lab, has been searching for the Higgs for years, and lab leaders are hoping to discover it before the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland renders Fermilab's own Tevatron accelerator obsolete. On Monday, a story appeared in The Daily Telegraph in London announcing that Fermilab may have found the slippery boson. Unfortunately, the story "has no factual basis," in the words of one Fermilab official. It turns out the Telegraph took its cues from blogger Tommaso Dorigo, a physicist at the University of Padua in Italy. Dorigo claimed he had "two different, possibly independent sources" suggesting Fermilab had found the Higgs. But that is completely untrue, lab spokesman Judy Jackson said Tuesday. – FoxValleySun/Business

Dominant Social Theme: So close to God (and yet so far away).

Free-Market Analysis: We always get indignant emails when we write about Big Science. People seem to be fairly clear that big government and big monetary enterprises (central banks) don't work well, but somehow they believe that Big Science, funded by massive amounts of big government money (your money), is necessary to the progress of humankind's intellectual development.

Of course this cannot be so, or at least not directly. The amount of money directed at a project often has little or nothing to do with its success. If there were a direct relationship between money and success, then IBM would be running operating software on PCs around the world instead of Microsoft. Many of Apple's original products including its graphical user interface and mouse were apparently developed by a larger corporation as well, and then abandoned.

But even beyond the issue of bigness and nimbleness, there are issues having to do with how Big Science entrenches bad ideas. Everyone knows the story of Galileo and how the Roman Catholic Church impressed upon him the need for recantation. But today the Too Big To Fail syndrome remains ubiquitous. One can see it in the ponderous (mercantilist) quasi-private pharmaceutical industry where drugs are trickled through a gigantic government process, only to be recalled, over and over, for side effects.

The same can be said for particle physics. The awesome size, equally awesome amounts of money and vast employment opportunities provided by "colliders" have powerfully entrenched gravity-oriented physics. Scientists will do almost anything at this point to justify the Standard Model of physics. Occam's Razor tells us that the simplest explanation is the best. But in their zeal to protect their scientific fiefdoms, explanations of particle physics are getting ever more complicated. Here's an article recently reported on the Newser website:

God Particle' Might Really Be 5 God Particles … The Large Hadron Collider scientists searching for the Higgs boson "God particle" that explains the mysteries of the universe should be looking for five different particles, according to their rival atom-smashers in the US. Fermilab researchers in Illinois colliding protons and anti-protons found that the smashes yielded matter particles slightly more often than anti-matter particles, a phenomenon that could be explained by the existence of five kinds of Higgs bosons, the Telegraph reports.

The Higgs boson, under the Standard Model of physics, is what gives everything in the universe its mass. The Fermilab researchers say that the existence of five kinds of the particle doesn't fit into the Standard Model and their experiments suggest there are new, as yet undiscovered, kinds of physics out there. The matter-anti-matter discrepancy is "a really small effect, but it's still much bigger than if you turn all the cranks with all the original rules in the standard mode," a member of the Fermilab team tells National Geographic.

As one feedbacker on the Newser site points out, the reality of the Higgs boson has never been established to begin with, yet now the ante seems to have been upped considerably. The big colliders and the scientists that run them might have to prove the existence of five unseen and undocumented particles to salvage the Standard Model of physics. There is a far less complex answer, of course. You can read previous Bell articles dealing with this topic here:

CERN Rises – the Boondoggle Expands

Collider Sets Chaos, Cro-Magnon Rises

We doubt that Big Science – collider science – would have taken off if not for government funding. Who else would have paid for such things but government? (The Large Hadron Collider is 17 MILES long, for goodness' sake.) Governments have an incentive to provide funds for science, to show that government is indeed the driving force behind all that is progressive in the world. Scientists are glad to provide theories that need hundreds of millions of dollars to come to fruition. It is a kind of intellectual welfare for researchers.

In a simpler world, the argument between proponents of an electrical universe and those of the Standard Model could be resolved via erudite presentations in physics journals and the inevitable, resultant, nasty letters. But that will not be the case now. Too many are too highly invested in the current process. There is too much to lose. Hence, the increasing sense of desperation and urgency infecting the "search" for this particle or that one. This is not just our theory. Our initial article on this subject (link above) began with the following article excerpt:

Science will be left back in a "nightmarish wilderness" if the Large Hadron Collider fails to find the elusive Higgs Boson, warns a rebel physicist. Former Harvard research scholar, professor Shahriar Afshar said that failure to find the particle would bring current scientific theory tumbling down like a house of cards with nothing to replace it. The controversial physicist, whose Afshar experiment has already found a loophole in quantum theory, said that unless the scientific community starts contemplating a "plan B", failure could lead to "chaos and infighting". He said failure will undermine more than a hundred years of scientific theory and undermine some of the mainstays of scientific thinking, the Standard Model, a general theory of how particles fit together to create matter. – UK Telegraph

From our point of view what Big Science does is entrench current positions and beliefs – and resultant desperation to grasp at any shred of success. Once one has been responsible for building something 17 miles long at the cost of billions, it is fairly difficult to accept another idea with open arms. People in science cling tenaciously to their beliefs anyway, perhaps even more so than religious radicals. To complicate science with literally billions of fiat dollars (where do those fiat dollars come from again?) simply retards the process of "creative destruction" and the progress that comes from the discovery and implementation of new ideas.

Some of the greatest inventors of the previous epoch were people like the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. None of these individuals had access to huge government grants, or even large amounts of private funding, when they were starting out. Neither did two of the most significant technology-entrepreneurs of the 20th century, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

The response to this, we are aware, is that only vast amounts of money could provide the mechanisms necessary for testing science's increasingly sophisticated ideas. Our answer in turn would be that necessity is the mother of invention. Lacking government funding, who knows what some anti-social thinker – a modern day Newton – might have come up with in, say, a cardboard box rather than a 17-mile longer elephant-sized tunnel.

After Thoughts

It is of course possible that Big Science will yield some conclusive and surprising results – perhaps all five God Particles, or even more. Equally feasible, it may yield inconclusive results that will be held up as conclusive because of all the vested interests surrounding the discoveries. Finally, to the great embarrassment of all concerned, the colliders may yield up nothing of merit. Either of these last two possibilities is bound to retard rather than advance the cause of science and application of knowledge. But too much money is at stake now. That is indeed why there is no Plan B. And in the end, it is human progress that ultimately is stifled because of a lack of respect for the effectiveness and efficiencies realized when individual thinkers are satisfying personal goals and perceived societal needs. Human Action is at work – and it works exactly the same way in the field of science as it does in the field of finance.