Atom Smashers

The great thing about digital television is that PBS now offers 3-4 more channels in my area. One of them shows a program called Independent Lens. I’ve been enjoying these independent documentaries for the last month, and just a few minutes ago, finished watching one called “The Atom Smasher”.

The Atom Smasher is about Fermilab, the particle accelerator in Illinois. It was bult in 1967, but didn’t use the Tevatron until the early 1980s. And what a breakthrough that was for physics. As the years went by, everyone is still searching for the elusive Higgs boson, or God Particle. But the biggest problem lies in funding. The government is moving away from basic research to defense and other programs like nanotechnology.
Fermilab’s competition, CERN, turned on last year. But the Large Hedron Collider broke only after a few days and will be offline until summer of 2009. Meanwhile, Fermilab is still taking budget cuts

Our country needs science. With all due respect to other countries, no one else has excelled in science in the 20th century like America. We created the atomic bomb, put a man on the moon, and started something called ARPANET, commonly known as the Internet. With such success, the future generation does not seem to care about any of this.

More and more graduates are studying in foreign countries, because their government puts money into research. From my experience, the current generation does not want to study science. Even if they do, it’s a different kind of science. The kind that tries to cure cancer or solve world hunger. The kind that isn’t derived from curiosity, but more of a need or personal fulfillment.

If the LHC comes back online, Europe might claim the Higgs boson. One milestone discovery that fell through our hands in America.

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