From the Higgs Boson to the Reality of the World

Early in the 1960s, Peter Higgs hypothesized the existence of a boson that was able to explain the behavior and origin of particles masses, based on the Standard Model of Physic Particles. However, since then there haven’t been technological conditions capable of studying this topic deeply – until 2008 when the Large Hadron Collider was built. It is constituted by two powerful accelerators which are trying to find not only the Higgs Boson, but also possible components of dark matter. Although both of them have the same goals, they differ from each other by their technical solutions and by the type of magnetic systems.

According to the Forbes magazine, the LHC took about a decade to build, having a total cost of 4.75$ billions. CERN contributes with approximately 20% of the experiments mentioned above, which makes a total of 5.5% billion annually. The rest is subsidized by international collaborations. Computing power is also an essential part of the cost of running CERN – around 286$ million a year. In terms of electricity, the total cost is around 23.5$ millions per year. The whole operating budget of the LHC is approximately 1$ billion a year.
On the other hand, the chronic problems in poorer regions are numerous: limited education, the health care systems are incapable of answering basic needs, the majority of the children are under the poverty line, social injustice and abuse of property rights are common practices. In addition, it is not seen a capacity of intervention that is up to those challenges.

Taking all of this into account, a lot of questions come up, some of them already presented in an interpellation to an astronaut on a famous poem of José Saramago:

“Is it so necessary to spend billions of dollars trying to find the Higgs Boson, when part of that money could be invested in social problems, as health or education? Is it so important to understand what is happening in the universe, instead of giving better conditions to those who live in this world? Will the finding of Higgs Boson bring such explanations and technological evolutions capable of answering the existing needs? If the finding of the Higgs Boson comes up with different results from the expected, won’t this make the scientific world come back to zero? And if yes, won’t they have to invest millions and millions to settle a new way in order to understand the physic particles? Will the human being use that finding in a good way, or will it be the same as atomic bomb? Why so much technological growth when even the basic values of the human being are not assimilated in each one of us?”

Obviously, there is no doubt about the importance of scientific investigation, neither its undeniable advantages. However, it seems more important to find a balance between the various valences of the human life.


Written by Daniela Afonso, Bachelor student at Nova SBE and member of NOVAFRICA Student Group