What's the payoff from high-energy Physics?

The experiments of particle physiscists are getting more and more expensive. Take the new CERN accelerator-it is what >8 $billion? The USA gave up on its own super accelerator (Waco TX) ,because the construction costs were skyrocketing. Which leads to my question: is this worth it? I uncerstand, any intellectual activity that extends the bounds of knowledge is worthwhile-but, apart from proving that Higgs bosons exist, what we we get from this? Is there any spin-off (like from the space program)?
Please tell me that this work will result in infinite enerfy supplys (small, confinable black homes), time travel, new materials synthesis, etc.
Or is it just a big waste of money?


Will it lead to anything “useful”?

Unknowable, but it’s still worth it, just for the knowledge.

Wait … what?

Much of our understanding of quantum mechanics has come from previous generations of atom smashers. The world has changed a lot due to applied knowledge of quantum mechanics. Who knows what better understanding things will lead to. When people were building cyclotrons the idea was not to create inexpensive cell phones.

Sorry! i meant “black holes”!:smack:

Understanding the rules of the universe has the potential to open up FTL travel just as much as it could tell us that we’re screwed and everything is going to implode in ten minutes.

Certainly it’s been true that as we have progressively gained better understandings of the various forces of the universe, we’ve been able to do progressively more impressive things. But one couldn’t say before researching the relative speeds of two masses of different mass falling the same distance that this would lead to communications satellites in geosynchronous orbit. The results determine what gets made and how you make it, but you don’t know what the result will be till you do the test.

It will help us better understand the laws of physics. How exactly will that benefit us? We don’t know yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.
After all, the first guys investigating electricity didn’t know that it would lead to electric lights and powered clothes washers. Nobody working out quantum mechanics knew that it would allow transistors and pretty much the entire electronics revolution from pocket radios up to i-Phones. And nobody working on the details of relativity knew it would allow reliable GPS.

Now, if you’re just looking at specific useful technologies, any particular experiment may well be a failure, financially speaking, but many experiments will pay off in huge ways we never imagined. After all, if we knew how it would come out, it wouldn’t be an experiment, would it?

Lasers were a curiosity at best, and a waste of money at worst, for many, many years, until suddenly they became tremendously goddamn important and valuable. Just, y’know, FYI and stuff.

Personally, I’ve always looked at the question the other way around. What was the payoff from the metal plow, or the smallpox vaccine, or the computer? They all allowed us to devote more of our time and effort to gaining a greater understanding of the fundamentals of the Universe. The way I see it, pure knowledge is itself an end, with everything else a means to it.

But if you really insist, two of the conceivable products of the LHC would be microscopic black holes or magnetic monopoles, either of which could in fact be used to build those miracle power supplies you’re looking for. But those are actually relatively boring possible benefits, because those are just the ones that we anticipate. History has shown that, whatever the biggest advance from a particular experiment turns out to be, it’s almost never one of the ones that is anticipated.

One of the goals of the new collider at CERN is to finally identify the Higg’s boson. In the current standard model the Higg’s particle is believed to be responsible for giving other particles mass.

What if at some point in the future we are able to manipulate Higg’s particles the way we manipulate electrons and photons now? Don’t you think there might be just a few practical applications to being able to change the mass of objects … ?

If we knew, we wouldn’t have to build the accelerator.

What use is a newborn babe?

Certainly more use than more and more destructive weapons.

And much more use than a cathedral.

A GQ thread from just last month asking almost exactly the same question. Including a response from me.

Remember the old BBS days? Tim Berners-Lee does, but the came up with a better idea while working at CERN. The same CERN that later built the LHC.

I wonder when the governments participating in CERN will have made enough money on taxes and fees from eCommerce, or saved enough money by putting government functions on web sites, to have paid for all of CERN’s budgets since CERN’s inception.

I’m not generally a fan of spin-offs as an argument for supporting technical programs, but the World Wide Web is a doozy, and one I use daily.

It will have a huge impact on internet speed and communication. It already has. The data collection and info transfer rates are incredible. The info is being sent all around Europe through a series of tubes.