There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.
― Isaac Asimov
I will add a second one by Walter Isaacson from his excellent book Einstein:
A popular feel for scientific endeavors should, if possible, be restored given the needs of the twenty-first century. This does not mean that every literature major should take a watered-down physics course or that a corporate lawyer should stay abreast of quantum mechanics. Rather, it means that an appreciation for the methods of science is a useful asset for a responsible citizenry.
The theme is clear: The lack of not only scientific understanding, but of basic respect to science is commonplace in the United States. Issues such as global warming are debated and questioned by politicians, media, and the general public on a daily basis in spite of there being near complete agreement among scientists about it. I think that this attitudes will cost the U.S. its scientific leadership unless it is reversed.
Also known as “The God Particle”, you may think that it’s the basic building block of chocolate.
But no. The Higgs Boson is a theoretical particle that gives mass to all other particles. You see, physicists have always been trying to understand and model our world so that they can explain what we are made of and how things work. They make a bunch of hypotheses and mathematical models that fit our observations of the world. They use those models to make predictions of things we haven’t observed yet, and then they build gigantic physics experiments to see if they can reproduce some of their predictions.
One of the particles they hypothesized about but has not been yet proven to exist is called the Higgs Boson. This is why scientists built the Large Hadron Collider (the coolest machine on the planet), and are now analyzing data from recent experiments run on it. They think that some of the results are proof of the existence of the Higgs Boson.
If things pan out, it would be a huge breakthrough in our understanding of the universe. So in order to be better prepared for a possible eventual announcement, watch this video by the good people at Fermilab.
In 1996, IBM’s ASCI Red was the top ranked supercomputer in the world. It was the first one that could do 1 Teraflop. A Teraflop means 1000000000000 floating point (think fractional math) operations per second. It was used to simulate nuclear explosions and such.
This week, AMD released the ATI Radeon Mobility HD 5870 can also do 1 Teraflop. This is a graphic chip for laptop computers. It will be used to draw millions of polygons per second depicting your simulated orgies and such.