Dr Julian Cook's science laboratory
Emotions ran high this week as the Tevatron particle detector accelerated its last proton. The detector had been active since 1983 but it had fallen into the shadow of a bigger, better model – the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.
The poignancy of the occasion was felt by fellow creaking and outmoded machine, Demi Moore, after her young husband, Ashton Kutcher, saw it was also time to have her replaced with a superior, better calibrated version.
You may think that one particle accelerator is the same as any other – indeed that’s what Ms Moore tells herself every day via Twitter. However, like her, you’d be deluding yourself. The truth is: she was old and becoming an embarrassment to the world of physics. It costs a lot of money to keep her operational and it was unlikely she was going to offer us anything of real significance if we’d let her go on as she was. In these tough times, apportioning such a huge swathe of the US budget to her upkeep was just an affront to hardworking families.
We cannot cling to tired ideas just because we feel sorry for them. Consider Banderas. Once, he sang magnificently on the big screen with Madonna herself. But he will never get on Two and a Half Men while saddled with that so called ‘working girl’, Melanie Griffith.
With this in mind, I often find myself asking, ‘would Ashton get sentimental over this?’. Did Einstein get clingy to his static universe theory when Hubble’s red shift suggested it was flawed? He certainly did not. He followed Ashton’s lead and cut loose his dead weight. It was the only way to move on. So, when I think I’m on the right path to low energy neutrino detection, I go at it single minded – I’ll Kutcher every man around me if I have to. These are just some of the things that Ashton and I would discover we have in common if we ever had dinner together.
And of course no one will forget that, like Demi, the Tevatron leaves a significant body of work to posterity. Back in the 80s, she was at the top of her game with none like her in the world. You would have paid a month’s wages for just a peek at the shenanigans taking place deep beneath her formidable exterior. I can assure you, that stuff was beyond your wildest dreams. Of course, now everyone’s doing it. It’s sad to think of her now, all alone and brooding over what she once was and how she will never, ever be glorious again. Still, we mustn’t get attached. Did Ashton? Our focus must always be the secrets of the universe.
And besides, a happy ending could be in store for both Demi and Tevatron. Most obsolete machinery still has plenty to offer in terms of medical research and a bullet at this stage would be a little rash. Rumour has it, she will continue in what up till now have been her side projects in earthquake prediction and the compaction and storage of massive quantities of explosive hydrogen gas.
Dr Julian Cook is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Studies