Comment »Posted on Tuesday 9 September 2008 at 2:04 pm by Jacob Aron
In Getting It Wrong, Physics

The Today programme had Professor Stephen Hawking on this morning, taking about (what else), the Large Hadron Collider. He reiterated much of what I’ve said this past week, namely micro black holes are unlikely to be produced, and even if they do crop up, we’re perfectly safe.

Hawking also agreed with my comments yesterday about the immediate benefits of the LHC, stating science for the sake of science is enough for now:

“Throughout history, people have studied pure science from a desire to understand the universe, rather than for practical applications, or commercial gain. But their discoveries have later turned out to have great practical benefits. It is difficult to see an economic return from research at the LHC, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any.”

He also pointed out that together the cost of the LHC and the space program (which Hawking also views as vital to the survival of the human race) cost less than 0.1% of world GDP – which we should easily afford. Hawking himself could be out of pocket, as he has a bet against the discovery of the Higgs boson – to the tune of $100. He thinks it would be more “exciting” not to find the Higgs, as it would mean something is wrong with the Standard Model of particle physics.

It’s good to hear from Hawking on the LHC. He’s arguably the most famous living physicist, even if many people remember him for his disability rather than his discoveries. Hopefully the general public will have read his books or seen him on TV, remembered him as an interesting and reasonably sane guy, and take his word for it – we’re not all going to die tomorrow, but we are witnessing an extremely important piece of science.

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