Written by: Stephen Hsu
Primary Source: Information Processing
If you’re in particle physics you may have heard rumors that the Chinese government is considering getting into the collider business. Since no one knows what will happen in our field post-LHC, this is a very interesting development. A loose international collaboration has been pushing a new linear collider for some time, perhaps to be built in Japan. But since (1) the results from LHC are thus far not as exciting as some had anticipated, and (2) colliders are very very expensive, the future is unclear.
While in China and Taiwan I was told that it was very likely that a next generation collider project would make it into the coming 5 year science plan. It was even said that the location for the new machine (combining both linear and hadronic components) would be in my maternal ancestral homeland of Shandong province. (Korean physicists will be happy about the proximity of the site :-)
Obviously for the Chinese government the symbolic value of taking the lead in high energy physics is very high — perhaps on par with putting a man on the moon. In the case of a collider, we’re talking about 20 year timescales, so this is a long term project. Stay tuned!
On the importance of experiments, from Voting and Weighing:
There is an old saying in finance: in the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it’s a weighing machine. …
You might think science is a weighing machine, with experiments determining which theories survive and which ones perish. Healthy sciences certainly are weighing machines, and the imminence of weighing forces honesty in the voting. However, in particle physics the timescale over which voting is superseded by weighing has become decades — the length of a person’s entire scientific career. We will very likely (barring something amazing at the LHC, like the discovery of mini-black holes) have the first generation of string theorists retiring soon with absolutely no experimental tests of their *lifetime* of work. Nevertheless, some have been lavishly rewarded by the academic market for their contributions.