Friday, December 28, 2007

Physics under attack

Although this is not a science blog, I feel moved to comment on the attack by the funding agency (STFC) on fundamental research into particle physics in the UK. Apart from the cuts in funding, what is also particularly annoying is that STFC have a number of "big questions" that are meant to focus research on important areas. The older funding agency called PPARC had questions such as "what are the basic properties of the fundamental particles and forces?", that can be potentially answered. With a new funding agency comes new big questions, the only one that is potentially relevant to particle physics is "why is there a Universe?" What sort of question is that? If you are nine years old then this is perhaps a reasonable question, but it is hard to even know how to start answering such a question. Who wrote that crappy STFC delivery document? If you put "why is there a Universe" into google scholar (that searches books and journals), then you only find that phrase in books on theology, philosophy of science, and one entry in "Nursing Administration Quarterly, 2000". If you search for the phrase "why is there a Universe" using google you find hits from Hawking and string theory people. So this question has nothing to do with physics, reality or experiment. Things would be much simpler in the US, where I would sue STFC because they broke the separation between church and state. In the UK I can only complain to that nice Richard Dawkins bloke, and let him spew some polemic at STFC. Things don't seem and better in the US, where the accelerator I have been focussing most of my phenomenological studies on has just been cancelled. However the funding for a new machine has almost been approved.