“We assume they’re working for the benefit of humanity..”

Never mind those telescopes. The Large Hadron Collider had a little hiccup when it started up last year, but it has been re-assembled and should be up and runnning properly soon. There’s a detailed report at Discover‘s cosmic blog. Or you could watch the Daily Show‘s John Oliver, ermm, visit “the doomsday machine threatening to destroy our planet.” Heh. Thanks Susan.

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Large Hadron Collider
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  • joeCanuck

    Pete,
    I’m a huge Science and Engineering fan, as you know, but I think colliders are a huge case of well intentioned mis-spend. The more powerful they make them, surprise, surprise, they are going to create heavier and heavier particles which will immediately decay and leave the Scientists scratching their heads as to what it all means. The only thing that will make sense of it, of course, is to big an even bigger collider.
    Blind alley.

  • Pete Baker

    Joe

    I think you mis-interpret what a collider does. Or what scientist use them for – btw, no need for capitalisations.

    Observing matter at the high energies that only a collider can produce allows for the testing of hypotheses about the nature of that matter – and, by extension, the universe that matter inhabits.

    The results from those experiments do inform subsequent theoretical research.

    But if they do so by negating previous hypotheses then it is progressing knowledge.

    And if they do so by confirming previous hypotheses..

    ANYway.. we’re in the humour category..

  • Super Gunners!

    “I’m a huge Science and Engineering fan”

    But will they make it to the champions league?

  • blinding

    Are you sure all the money (or was that make believe money) has not been black holed by the Large Hadron collider.

    Come on its as about as believable as anything the bankers have come up with.

  • Oiliféar

    Pete,

    I think what Joe is saying is that bigger colliders don’t allow for the testing of more hypothesis. I am of the opinion that it will increase reliability of measures (but of course there is a practical limit to this).

    (BTW – capitalise, please – no need for italics. ANYway [stop shouting!].. there are three dots in an ellipsis.)

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    I am currently of the opinion that the moon is made of Edam. Of course almost anything I could read in reality-based sources would disabuse me of that notion, if I really wanted to inform myself. Funny things, opinions.

    PB,

    “Observing matter at the high energies that only a collider can produce allows for the testing of hypotheses…”

    btw – these energies are routinely produced by natural sources in the universe. But it would be churlish of me to point that out, wouldn’t it?

    ANYhoo…

  • Oiliféar

    Funny things indeed. Is a hypothesis not a kind of opinion (unproven, based on limited evidence, and all that)? They’re not all bad, you know. Sometimes you might even find them in those fancy “reality”-based sources. Not that I would be into that kind of thing myself. No, no.

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    An hypothesis is what you might come up with to explain observable phenomena. An opinion is a subjective point of view.

    Your opinion that the LHC will merely increase the reliability of [existing measurements?] doesn’t seem to be based on almost anything you could read written by almost anyone who knows anything about it.

    Of course you’re entitled to it, but the facts are out there.

  • Oiliféar

    Devil Eire,

    A hypothesis is an expected outcome for an experiment or study. It is based on limited evidence or conjecture and is something that is (normally) expected to be proven by observation. An argument is what you might come up with to explain observable phenomena (normally prefaced by a thesis).

    The reliability of measures means the degree to which (observed) measurements of the same thing vary between measurements (compare with what is meant by validity of measures).

    A common way to increase the reliability of measures is to increase the scale of what is being measured. For example, if you want to measure the thickness of a piece of paper then measuring the thickness of an individual piece will have a low reliability of measure. Measuring the thickness of a stack of 1000 pieces of paper then dividing the result by 1000 to give the thickness of an individual piece will have a higher reliability of measure.

    A similar principle is being employed by the LHC. The official site has a quote from the Guardian that summarises the principle of increasing scale to increase reliability of measures: “To pinpoint the smallest fragments of the universe you have to build the biggest machine in the world. To recreate the first millionths of a second of creation you have to focus energy on an awesome scale.”

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    Let’s get a few basic definitions out of the way. By “reliability of measure” you appear to mean “precision”, the extent to which a repeated measurement produces similar results. In the physical sciences, a distinction is made between “precision” and “accuracy”. The latter is the degree to which a measurement yields its true value. Your example of measuring the thickness of a piece of paper will produce a result which is precise, but not necessarily accurate. Most experiments need to be both precise and accurate.

    So, to say that the LHC will simply produce more precise measurements is to (spectacularly) miss the point.

    In your example of measuring the thickness of a piece of paper, to increase your measurement precision, you measured the thickness of 1,000 pieces of paper and divided the result by 1,000. For further precision, you might increase the number of pieces of paper to 10,000 or 1,000,000. To state that “a similar principle is being employe by the LHC” suggests that the aim of the LHC is to measure the properties of known phenomena (“page thickness”) with greater precision.

    Instead, the LHC will operate in an energy regime which will result in new phenomena (perhaps due to fundamentally new physics, beyond the standard model). These phenomena were simply not accessible at lower energies and so it is not the case that the LHC will simply be increasing the “reliability of measure”.

  • Oiliféar

    Devil Eire,

    “Accuracy” and “precision” are synonyms for “validity” and “reliability” respectively. There is a preference among certain sciences/scientists for one set of terms or the other. I know that “accuracy”/”precision” predominates engineering publications but I am surprised that you never heard of “validity”/”reliability” before. See here for a discussion of the use of the terms in literature.

    Contrary to what you wrote in your final paragraph above, increased “precision”/”reliability” owing to the large scale of the LHC is one of the advances that the LHC offers. See this abstract for example.

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    I repeat, in the physical sciences, the terms are precision and accuracy. They refer to random and systematic errors, respectively. (Your link to a discussion of the use of the terms in “the literature” is from the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. We are discussing a physics experiment.)

    These terms are certainly not synonymous with “reliability” and “validity” (as your own link demonstrates) although there is some semantic overlap.

    You link to a paper which describes an expected precision measurement of the W-boson at LHC. Yes, the LHC will increase the precision of this measurement. But, they wish to know the true value of the W-mass (partly because this allows them to constrain the mass of the Higgs boson). In order to know the true mass, they need to also reduce their systematic errors. So, as in any experiment where the absolute value is important, they need to pay attention to both precision and accuracy (as the abstract itself makes clear).

    None of which has any bearing on my statement that ‘it is not the case that the LHC will simply be increasing the “reliability of measure”.’

    Now give Google a rest.

  • Oiliféar

    Devil Eire/Pete,

    ROFL. Gracious! You really had to pull some summersaults in that last one. To summarise: “That’s biology … they have DIFFERENT SCIENCE … And, yeah, you’re right about the scale of the LHC increasing reliability of measures but … things are complicated … so you’re WRONG!!”

    ANYhoo.. good luck with that! And who knows? Maybe the boys in Geneva will open a black hole to an alternative dimension where they might find the rest of that argument.

    p.s. Sorry about the links. I had just thought you might appreciate the input of some “reality-based sources”. 😉

  • Oiliféar

    (I hope the Wikipedia link in the above is more to your tastes.)

  • susan

    “a song in ev’ry throat,
    As Spring comes, to Slugger…”

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    Try to remain calm.

    Reliability and validity seem to be defined very qualitatively, that’s all. I’m happy to accept that, qualitatively, there is a correspondence between “reliability of measure” and “precision”.

    The thing is, we are discussing a physics experiment in which these terms (“precision” and “accuracy”) are used quantitatively. So, even though the scientific method is the same, if you start reading physics abstracts about measurements of increased “precision”, there may be some misunderstanding involved if you’re unfamiliar with how these terms are used.

    AHYhoo (as PB would say, or am I supposed to be him now?) at the risk of flogging an already rather rigid equine, your original opinion was that the “increased scale of the LHC” would somehow (via a Guardian quotation) increase the the “reliability of measures”.

    To take your example of the W mass, at the higher energies involved, increased production rate of W boson events will allow a more precise value of the mass to be obtained. Assuming they can also correspondingly increase the accuracy, then a better estimate of the actual W mass can be obtained. This will in turn lead to a better estimate (than found recently at Fermilab) of the energy scale of the Higgs boson.

    This is all very worthy, but LHC can actually produce the Higgs, if it exists! And, very possibly, exciting indicators of physics-beyond-the-standard-model, for example extra dimensions.

    So, forgive my insistence, but the LHC can do so much more than simply increase the “reliability of measures”.

  • Oiliféar

    “… the LHC can do so much more than simply increase the ‘reliability of measures’.”

    I have no opinion either way about that. @5 above I took care to write that, “I think what Joe is saying is that bigger colliders don’t allow for the testing of more hypotheses.” I don’t know.

    As for the words, “accuracy”/”precision” is more common, even more appropriate, to some disciplines more than others certainly.

    BTW, and I don’t want to set off another bluster from either one of us, but what is meant by “qualitative” and “quantitative” is a bugbear of mine. Mainly because qualitative research is my bread and butter. (I’m not loath to the quantitative stuff, it’s simply that qualitative work is usually more useful to the work that I do.) Like “reliability” and “validity” they have precise meanings … but let’s leave that one for another day!!

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    ‘“… the LHC can do so much more than simply increase the ‘reliability of measures’.” I have no opinion either way about that.’

    Your comment in #5 above was that “I am of the opinion that it will increase reliability of measures…”. As a statement, this is not incorrect. I am simply making that point that to focus on this aspect misses the point of the LHC.

    “As for the words, “accuracy”/“precision” is more common, even more appropriate, to some disciplines more than others certainly.”

    Again, it’s not about the words, it’s about the underlying concepts they represent. There is not a one-to-one mapping between “validity” and “accuracy”.

    If you throw out a qualitative term such as “reliability of measures” or “validity” in relation to physics data, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone attempts to frame the discussion more quantitatively, simply to try to understand your point.

    “qualitative research is my bread and butter”

    Clearly 😉
    Equus, requiescat in pace.

  • Oiliféar

    “I am simply making that point that to focus on this aspect misses the point of the LHC.”

    You went about it a very long way 😉

    Purely from the perspective of experimental design, what happens if the Higgs boson is not observed in the LHC? Does this mean that it doesn’t exist or (like JoeCusack wrote) does it mean that we need a bigger collider? Intuitively (I’m not a physicist, are you?), this strikes me as a problem … unless experimentation is not the purpose.

    “If you throw out a qualitative term such as ‘reliability of measures’ or ‘validity” in relation to physics data …”

    Oh dear. “Reliability” and “validity” are terms from quantitive research. Their use in qualitative research is problematic. A basic Google search should demonstrate that to you, even if you are still struggling with the terms themselves.

    Yesterday, you had apparently never heard of the terms before. Today, you are telling me what they mean. What’s the Latin for “don’t use words you don’t understand”, Equus?

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    You went about it a very long way 😉

    That wasn’t my intention, believe me. But you may have had a hint 9 posts ago in #10 above: “So, to say that the LHC will simply produce more precise measurements is to (spectacularly) miss the point.”, But I can keep on repeating it until you get it.

    Purely from the perspective of experimental design, what happens if the Higgs boson is not observed in the LHC? Does this mean that it doesn’t exist or (like JoeCusack wrote) does it mean that we need a bigger collider?

    If the Higgs isn’t found, then in my view that is an exciting result. If it exists then the LHC should find it. Without the Higgs, then another mechanism is needed to explain electroweak symmetry breaking, but the LHC should shed light on this mechanism, whatever it is, without the need for a “bigger” collider.

    Oh dear. “Reliability” and “validity” are terms from quantitive research. Their use in qualitative research is problematic. A basic Google search should demonstrate that to you, even if you are still struggling with the terms themselves.

    Yesterday, you had apparently never heard of the terms before. Today, you are telling me what they mean. What’s the Latin for “don’t use words you don’t understand”, Equus?

    I should remind you that it was you who used the term “reliability of measures”.

    If you used the term qualitatively, then as I said, ‘you shouldn’t be surprised if someone attempts to frame the discussion more quantitatively, simply to try to understand your point.’

    On the other hand, if you did intend to use the term quantitatively (and if it is synonymous with “precision”) then you have repeatedly shown that you haven’t the foggiest notion of how it should be applied to physical data.

    Bluster, indeed.

  • Oiliféar

    “I should remind you that it was you who used the term ‘reliability of measures’.”

    You can. I did. And you didn’t understand it. And you still don’t. Don’t get cranky just because you misapply it.

    “If you used the term qualitatively…”

    Even if “reliability of measures” was a term from qualitative research, what kind of qualitative research could possibly be performed using the LHC that I might have meant it in that way!??

    “If it exists then the LHC should find it.”

    Thanks. Although I am suspect whether I should take your word for fact. (No offense.)

    I’m wrapping up this conversation but thank you – honestly – for a well-spirited exchange. Best of luck.

  • Devil Eire

    Ollifar,

    You can. I did. And you didn’t understand it. And you still don’t. Don’t get cranky just because you misapply it.

    Since I am unfamiliar with the terms “reliability of measures” and “validity”, I suggested that: ‘By “reliability of measure” you appear to mean “precision”, the extent to which a repeated measurement produces similar results.’ (post #10)

    You confirmed this was your intent in #12: “Accuracy” and “precision” are synonyms for “validity” and “reliability” respectively.

    So, I must continue to assert that if “reliability of measures” = “precision”, in a quantitative sense, then you have repeatedly demonstrated that you have no idea how the concept should be applied to physical data.

    Even if “reliability of measures” was a term from qualitative research, what kind of qualitative research could possibly be performed using the LHC that I might have meant it in that way!??

    I have no idea.

    Thanks. Although I am suspect whether I should take your word for fact. (No offense.)

    None taken. That is an excellent policy when engaging in anonymous internet discussions.

    I’m wrapping up this conversation but thank you – honestly – for a well-spirited exchange. Best of luck.

    You’re welcome.