Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Ay ay boson

How encouraging it was to hear a physicist talking last night on Radio 4 about the (probable) discovery of the Higgs Boson at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Her enthusiasm was infectious but even more so was the fact that it was accompanied by a real thirst for knowledge. It would be wonderful if the Higgs Boson was proved to exist she said; even better if it were proved not to exist. Both options would contribute to knowledge and open up new avenues of enquiry.

She also stressed how many developments had arisen as a byproduct of the quest for knowledge, and how many more (unimaginable) would come from further investigations. In other words, she was an excellent proponent of the importance of pure research. Buildings of course have been beneficiaries of the quest for knowledge, whether we are talking about ETFE, or photovoltaics or even BIM which could be seen as a 'byproduct' of the growth in computing power.
The Large Hadron Collider cost and costs a lot of money, but its purpose was not to make more money but to enhance human knowledge. In a week when the latest revelations from Barclays and Bob Diamond remind us just how toxic the pursuit of money for its own sake can be, it is worth remembering that spending money can serve other purposes too. All buildings cost money - how great if more of them could be in the service of human wellbeing rather than of mammon.