Thrilled as I am by humankind’s ability to make the entire universe disappear in a puff of smoke, if it was ever here at all, I have to admit a certain sympathy for the remarks of Sir David King on climate change and science, as reported by the BBC:
The former UK chief scientist will use his presidential address at the BA Science Festival to call for a gear-change among innovative thinkers.
He will suggest that less time and money is spent on endeavours such as space exploration and particle physics.
He says population growth and poverty in Africa also demand attention.
“The challenges of the 21st Century are qualitatively different from anything that we’ve had to face up to before,” he told reporters before the opening of the festival, which is being held this year in Liverpool.
“This requires a re-think of priorities in science and technology and a redrawing of our society’s inner attitudes towards science and technology.”
Sir David’s remarks will be controversial because they are being made just as the UK is about to celebrate its participation in the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest physics experiment.
It will seek to understand the building blocks of matter, and, in particular, try to find a mechanism that can explain why matter has mass.
This international venture is extremely expensive, however. The UK alone has contributed more than £500m to the LHC – the largest sum of money to date invested by a UK government in a single scientific project.
Sir David said it was time such funding – and the brains it supports – were pushed to answering more pressing concerns.
“It’s all very well to demonstrate that we can land a craft on Mars, it’s all very well to discover whether or not there is a Higgs boson (a potential mass mechanism); but I would just suggest that we need to pull people towards perhaps the bigger challenges where the outcome for our civilisation is really crucial.”
Image from Wikipedia.