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A new era of science

9 Mar 2016, 08:25 UTC
A new era of science
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[img source: changingcourse.com]Here in basic research we all preach the gospel of serendipity. Breakthroughs cannot be planned, insights not be forced, geniuses not be bred. We tell ourselves – and everybody willing to listen – that predicting the outcome of a research project is more difficult than doing the research in the first place. And half of all discoveries are made while tinkering with something else anyway. Now please join me for the chorus, and let us repeat once again that the World Wide Web was invented at CERN – while studying elementary particles.But in theoretical physics the age of serendipitous discovery is nearing its end. You don’t tinker with a 27 km collider and don’t coincidentally detect gravitational waves while looking for a better way to toast bread. Modern experiments succeed by careful planning over the course of decades. They rely on collaborations of thousands of people and cost billions of dollars. While we always try to include multipurpose detectors hoping to catch unexpected signals, there is no doubt that our machines are built for very specific purposes. And the selection is harsh. For every detector that gets funding, three others don’t. For every satellite mission that goes into ...

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