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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Somebody should tell them, the answer is 42

A bit of light relief this morning with the very serious story in The Times that scientists want to spend £21 billion on building a 100km-long circular tunnel, a successor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) under the Swiss-French border to smash sub-atomic particles together.

The intention is that the Future Circular Collider would be nearly four times larger than the Large Hadron Collider and aim to fill gaps in our knowledge of the universe:

“You can think of a collider as a microscope,” Jonathan Butterworth, of University College London, who has contributed to the plans, said. “The point of going to higher energy is that we get higher resolution. We can study the fundamental constituents of the universe and the forces that make them work together more accurately.”

The paper says that backers of the project, overseen by Cern, the particle physics research centre based in Geneva, argue that it offers a chance to augment our understanding of gravity or to explain why the universe is made of matter rather than anti-matter.

They add that, for example, the standard model of particle physics fails to explain dark matter, which makes up most of the mass of the universe. “It predicted the Higgs, but it’s definitely not a theory of everything,” Professor Butterworth said.

If Douglas Adams were still alive he might feel obliged to point out that the answer is actually 42. Still at just 54% of the cost of Brexit, this seems like good value for money, apart from all the other things we could spend £21 billion (or £39 billion for that matter) on.

Perhaps if the scientists proposing this project could demonstrate how the new collider might avert global warming, and the potential poverty and food shortages that it could cause, we could be onto a winner.
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