Public Figures and Science

Now, from time to time I see an article where a public figure decides to talk about science. I found a real nugget today when browsing the web. A blogger by the name of Copache, otherwise known as “The Seeker”, posted an entry related to the Higgs Boson from Rush Limbaugh. Now, I just don’t know what to say after reading the article from Rush, the article can be found here. To begin I should say that I am appalled. There are so many things wrong with his article it is hard to find out where to start. Lets begin with an easy one.

“By the way, it is this vast particle collider at the CERN research centre that they say could replace the Internet, with speeds so fast that you’ll be able to download a high definition movie, a two-hour high definition movie in three seconds.”

Ok, I am not really sure where this came from. Possibly he is spinning a small mis-understood side quote from somebody else, but really, this is bunk. You can’t run the internet with a particle accelerator. Now one of the main points from the article is related to the Higgs Boson, something that Rush obviously knows nothing about. He starts by explaining how we will find the particle:

“They’re going to use a particle accelerator and collider for it”

While this might be a true statement, I think that it is an attempt to trivialize the work that must be done. Sure, the community will be colliding protons on anti-protons at the Tevatron at Fermilab and protons on protons at the LHC in CERN, but we will be carefully looking at the results of these collisions for final state configurations consistent with the theory. It is an extremely difficult process in which a single analysis can take several years. I would just hate for people, namely the Rush Linbaugh followers who would be reading this to think that this process is easy.

Ok, now to the part that really ruffles my feathers (dont ask where the feathers came from).

“In other words, he’s looking for a “God particle.” He’s looking for a particle to prove God. Dr. Higgs, please, just look out the window. You see that tree? You see the grass? Whatever is outside your window, all of it, it’s God particles.”

If Rush Limbaugh had done his research, as he should since he is a public figure, he would know that the Higgs Particle was coined the “God Particle” not from Peter Higgs but from Leon Lederman. Leon Lederman published a book called “The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?”. Now Rush seems to think that this is related to religion and that we believe that by finding this particle we will prove the existence of god. There are a few things that are really wrong with this, well two that stand out. The first is that this is related to religion. It is not and I have found that he originally wanted to call it the “goddam” particle. Ok, even I think that is a little off and could be wrong but I will add that disclaimer to it. The second thing is that the search for the Higgs is a little bit different. The current work is to place limits on its possible mass, or masses if you are looking at the MSSM model. By looking hard enough in a particular region of mass space it is possible to state with some certainly that the Higgs particle is not there. So instead of discovering the Higgs particle we are working to disprove it, and then maybe we will find it |-). Ok, so away from that and back to what I really wanted this post to be about. What I hate to see is a public figure take something that he does not know anything about and then through jargon and industry terms around like he has been an integral component of the operation, as if he has any authority to do so.

So, Rush Limbaugh, I would like to first ask you to clarify your statements. It is obvious that we are not trying to prove the existence of God. That was never in the goals of any of the particle accelerator experimental complexes that I have been to. To say so would be preposterous. I would like for the public figures to make sure that they know what they are talking about before spouting something. I know that there are a number of people out there helping the cause, but I fear far more are hurting it. Rush Limbaugh has definitely reduced his credibility even more than it already was.

What was it that he does again… Ohh thats right, he just talks….

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About Justace Clutter

I am currently a Physics graduate student at the University of Kansas. My enphasis is High Energy Experiment and as such am currently working at the D0 experiment at Fermilab near Chicago. My undergraduate was accomplished at Southwest Missouri State University (now MSU) in Springfield, Mo. I also compleated 5 years of active duty in the Air Force just after high school.
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3 Responses to Public Figures and Science

  1. jtankers says:

    I missed Rush’s take on the Large Hadron Collider. What is Rush’s take on the safety issue, has he studied the details?

    (fyi: details at LHCFacts.org or en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_of_the_Large_Hadron_Collider)

  2. I should state that I do not watch or listen to Rush. So, in that sense I have no idea what his stance is on the safety aspects of the accelerator complex.

  3. Stacie says:

    He is a shock jock, so his entire career depends on sound bites. If he were actually to analyze and interpret information in a sound manner, he’d be out of a job.

    Just another reason Tim Russert will be missed.

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