Saturday, September 20, 2008

Random Thought about the LHC

So the Large Hadron Collider has turned on, and weirdly, every time I read something about it I am reminded of this exchange between Gandalf and Saruman:
"For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman the Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!"

I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.

"I liked white better," I said.

"White!" he sneered. "It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken."

"In which case it is no longer white," said I. "And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."

[J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring, p. 252]
It always struck me as a weird thing for Gandalf to say. Is he really worried about "breaking" white light to understand how it works? Does it count if you learn enough to put it back together again? Still, I guess it fits with the platonic and pre-scientific feel of Tolkien's universe.

So, anyway, let's raise a flagon of mead, smash some atoms and give a toast to reductionism! Good luck to the LHC - it would be cool if they found the Higgs, but even cooler if they found supersymmetry, or something even wackier.

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