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A Crisis of Perception



The public believes that science is all about developing technology. What does this mean for science? Irecently had an interesting conversation with an executive engineer from a spaceflight company. Our conversation began with satellites and rockets but soon came around to the Higgs boson discovery at CERN. With a concerned expression, he bluntly told me he did not understand why anybody would spend billions of dollars just to see a tiny particle that exists only for an instant. I was taken aback. Here was a man who had spent his whole life as an engineer—surely he should appreciate the value of scientific discovery, especially something as fundamental as the explanation for mass. Apparently, he did not. That attitude seems increasingly common today. Traditionally, the goal of science has been elucidating nature and discovering its laws. However, the public now seems to view science's primary goal as developing technology and creating products.[1] Earlier this year Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, wrote about that change of attitude in both politicians and the public. [2] During a congressional briefing i

Year: 2013
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