Tara Shears

Dr. Tara Shears, particle physicist, writes:

I think it was Robert Wilson who, when asked what value particle physics research was to defending the United States, said “None, except to make it worth defending”. That statement encapsulates why, to me at least, science is so important. Great science like great art, enriches our lives and gives us a way to make sense of the world.

For me, science is an adventure, a voyage of discovery armed only with the barest of tools. To find the underlying principles that link the outcomes of our experiments, and realise that the same principles describe the behaviour of stars, weather systems and fundamental particles - that’s amazing. It’s humbling. For an instant science gives you a glimpse of something deep and profound running through the universe.

It matters to me too that science is a process carried out in the most objective way possible. Scientific laws are not subject to spin or reinterpretation (unless they’re wrong). Scientists are rigorous about separating any personal bias from their results. The view of the universe this gives us is the clearest it can be. And this isn’t just philosophy - the most arcane areas of scientific research can yield surprisingly useful spin-offs. Life without electricity? Without semiconductors and their use in all aspects of computing and telecommunication? It doesn’t bear thinking about. Science shapes our culture and pushes our civilisation forward - that’s why it’s so important.

One Comment

  1. Rob Fardon
    Posted November 11, 2008 at 9:21 PM | Permalink | Reply

    I think that was from Wilson's testimony to the 1969 Congressional Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, which approved the funding for Fermilab. When pressed on whether the machine had any implications for national security, he said:

    "It has only to do with the respect with which we regard one another, the dignity of men, our love of culture. It has to do with: Are we good painters, good sculptors, great poets? I mean all the things we really venerate in our country and are patriotic about. It has nothing to do directly with defending our country except to make it worth defending."

    First class quote.

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